LANSING | For almost seven innings Thursday T.F. South played a flawless defensive game against South Suburban Blue leaders Oak Forest.
The Times No. 2 Rebels looked primed to grab a share of the conference lead, but that all changed in an instant as the Bengals rallied for a 3-2 victory in nine innings.
Sophomore starter Devon Pieper was dealing on the mound, holding the Bengals (13-4, 7-1) to one hit. Her teammates were taking care of business in the field, scooping up every ball that came their way.
After giving up a single to the second batter she faced, Pieper retired the next 19 batters in order and looked to be on her way to her seventh win of the season with two outs and two strikes on Oak Forest first baseman Taylor Sterkowitz in the top of the seventh.
But Sterkowitz drove a pitch up the middle for a hit and the rally was on. An error by shortstop Tiambris Tate put runners on second and third. Two hits later, the Rebels' 1-0 lead was a 2-1 deficit.
The Rebels (11-4, 8-3) had chances to extend their lead in almost every inning but failed to get the insurance runs, leaving 13 base runners stranded in the game.
“We did a lot of the basics wrong today not laying down bunts and advancing runners,” T.F. South coach Jamie Arundel said. “We had runners on in every inning and didn’t move them over; we can’t go into the top of the seventh with only a one run lead against a team like Oak Forest.”
Despite coughing up the lead late, T.F. South wasn’t about to hand the game over. First baseman Sarah Kessler drove a ball into center field, scoring Ashtyn Kapovich to tie the game and force extra innings.
But Sterkowitz came through again for the Bengals in the top of the ninth with an RBI double.
“We like to keep it interesting, there’s no let down in this team” Oak Forest coach Katy Dammer said. “I think once we came around the third time we finally figured (Pieper) out. We’ve done this several times where we hang around and turn it on in the seventh.”
The Rebels would get a last chance in the bottom of the ninth with runners at first and second and two out, but Sterkowitz came through again for the Bengals. She made a diving stab to rob Kessler of a potential game-tying hit and wrap up the win for Oak Forest.
“I could have hit my spots a little better today,” Pieper said. “I’m not sure if they figured things out in the seventh but they rallied up well. We just have to shake this off, keep our heads up and just come back the next game.”