After 29 hits, 25 runs scored and two teams that refused to give in, the Venice Indians finally outlasted the Lemon Bay Manta Rays, 13-12, in a non-district softball matchup Tuesday night at Larry Pope Field in Englewood.
For the Manta Rays (3-2), it was almost a tale of two games. They struggled to get hits in the early going, but exploded for all 12 of their runs in the final three innings.
The big blow was a long, two-run home run by Bailey Grossenbacher in the sixth. In addition, 10 of the Manta Rays’ 14 hits came after the fourth inning.
The game ended with a 12-run final inning — including seven from Venice and five by Lemon Bay.
Ultimately, a hard line drive off Grossenbacher, the pitcher, by the Indians’ Tatum McGrath in the top of the seventh, drove in the winning run. Grossenbacher was hit in the ribs by the hit. But, she shook it off and continued to pitch.
Despite the victory, the news was not all good for Venice (3-2).
Indians head coach Steve Constantino reported that his ace freshman pitcher, Karsyn Rutherford, may be lost for the season. A definitive answer will likely be known by the end of the week.
“She sustained the injury during a bullpen work – just a freak thing,” said Constantino. “Now, I don’t want to pitch Becka’s (Mellor) arm off like I did last year. So, I’m going to have to find pitching.”
Though Mellor didn’t start, she threw most of the game and picked up the win. Haley Adrian started and pitched a total of 2 2/3 innings in two different stints.
After Adrian pitched a scoreless first, she struggled with her control in the second. Mellor then pitched scoreless softball for the next three innings. By that time, Venice had a 6-0 lead.
Venice struck for single runs in the first two innings. They added two more runs in both the third and fourth innings. Kayleigh Roper, who drove in the first run with a line-drive single in the first, was not retired in five plate appearances. She added another single in the third, was hit by a pitch and walked twice.
“We’ve had a tendency to get up and then let teams come back to us,” said McGrath. “We really fought for each other tonight. We finished the game offensively like we needed to.”
Mellor knocked in four runs on a double and single while Kay Holland and Bri Weimer each collected two hits.
The Manta Rays had four players with three hits, including Grossenbacher, Leanna Kelly, Christian Chandler and Karlie Sweiderk. Chandler had three RBIs as did Grossenbacher. Grossenbacher earned one of her RBI with an intentional walk with the bases loaded – one inning after her long home run.
“I was going up there more aggressive than my earlier at-bats, that’s for sure,” said Grossenbacher. “I was expecting a changeup because she was throwing a lot of them. She got me to strike out on a changeup earlier. This time she threw it inside, and I hit it solid.”
The Mantas took their first lead of the contest (7-6) in the sixth inning after plating four runs. After Venice tacked on seven runs in the seventh by sending 12 hitters to the plate, the Rays came right back. Lemon Bay managed to plate five in their final at-bat after sending 11 batters to the plate.
The Indians are back on the field on Thursday when they host district rival Fort Myers at 7 p.m.