LENOX — Lenox softball coach Tom Shields knew it wasn’t a sure thing when his team jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first inning in a Class 1A Region 7 matchup with Orient-Macksburg Monday night.
“This was kind of a carbon copy of when we faced them at Mount Ayr 10 days ago,” said Shields, after his team’s 7-6 victory. “Down there, we jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and the next thing we know we’re fighting and clawing for our lives and come out with a 10-9 victory. We knew that wasn’t it after that first inning, that we had to keep going.”
After giving up five runs on four hits and two errors in that first inning, Orient-Macksburg settled down and crawled back into a 5-5 tie before going ahead 6-5 in the top of the fifth inning. In the fourth and fifth innings alone, Lenox had seven of its eight errors.
But a leadoff error and effective bunting game in the bottom of the seventh allowed Lenox to break a 6-6 tie on an RBI shot to the shortstop hole by Madison Douglas.
That ended O-M’s season at 9-17, while Lenox (18-13) advances to a second-round game at home Wednesday against conference rival Corning (13-14), a 9-0 winner over Villisca Monday.
There were more errors (15) in Monday’s game here than hits (11). That made it an adventure for both pitchers. O-M’s Tara Guion settled down after the first inning and ended with no walks, three strikeouts and six hits allowed. Winning pitcher Bailey Rainforth yielded six runs on five hits with three strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter.
O-M catcher Jasmine Ruckman had a big game as her career ended, swatting a solo home run near the left-field foul pole in the third inning and a base hit in the fifth, plus a diving catch near the backstop in Lenox’s seventh inning.
Gabby Jenkins stroked an RBI double in the fourth as O-M closed the gap to 5-3.
But it wasn’t enough to hold off a clutch rally in the seventh by Lenox. Jacy Stoaks reached on an infield error, and two bunts were successful by Hannah Maxa and Katie Dukes, one for a hit and one resulting in an error.
Douglas then hit a hard shot to the backhand side of O-M shortstop Shannon Eads, and with only one out, Stoaks easily crossed the plate with the winning run before Eads could make a play.
“That’s the way it happens sometimes,” O-M coach Dan McKinney said. “You make a big run, then it’s hard to come back with another run. We just wilted there in the first inning. They did the same thing when we had the big inning.”
McKinney loses seniors Guion, Ruckman and Jenkins from his starting lineup, and infielder Chrystal Patten missed the season with a knee injury. He was proud of how the team progressed in 2013.
“We’re 9-17, and we won one of our first seven games,” McKinney said. “Then we kind of got things put together. Those are three fine ballplayers we’re losing, and it would have helped a bunch to have had Patten, no doubt.”
Corning has been on a run of its own, winning 10 of its last 14. Shields said his team can’t afford another game littered with eight errors.
“We split with them over there in a doubleheader when we had a makeup game,” Shields said. “We won the first game 5-3 with just three hits, then the start of our demise was losing to them 7-2 when we had seven errors. That started an eight-game losing streak.”
Lenox is making its tournament run without two would-be starters, as both outfielder Bailey Schmitz and pitcher-first baseman Lauren Hensley suffered broken tibias in the past month.
“We’ve mixed and matched and moved people around the best we could,” Shields said.
Lenox 7, Orient-Macksburg 6
R H E
Orient-Macks. 001 230 0 — 6 5 7
Lenox 500 010 1 — 7 6 8
O-M: Tara Guion 3K 0BB and Jasmine Ruckman. L: Bailey Rainforth 3K 2BB 1 HBP and Aurora Arevalo. W — Rainforth. L— Guion. HR — O-M: Ruckman. 3B — L: Arevalo. 2B — O-M: Gabby Jenkins. RBI — O-M: Ruckman 1, Jenkins 1, Courtney Neal 1; L: Katie Dukes 1, Madison Douglas 1, Arevalo 1. Multiple hitters — O-M: 2; L: Dukes 2.