YORK – Heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the York Dukes needed a spark. The 6-11 Holdrege Dusters built an early 2-0 lead on the Dukes’ senior night, and the offense had managed just three hits in three innings against Holdrege starter Isabel Raburn.
Fittingly, the spark the Dukes needed came from two seniors. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Rebecca Libich and Jami Hoblyn launched back-to-back home runs, turning a two-run deficit into a one-run lead.
With just two swings, the game completely shifted. Ignited by Libich and Hoblyn’s blasts, the Dukes scored the game’s final nine runs and rolled to a 9-2 win over the Dusters.
“We hit the ball well,” York head coach Kent Meyers said. “Home runs set the tone, and they started hitting the ball hard after that.”
The Dukes finished with 14 hits, 12 of which came after the third inning.
Early on, momentum heavily favored Holdrege. Raburn led off the game with a fly ball to center field that York center fielder Baylie Holthus dropped. Raburn raced all the way to third on the error as Holdrege suddenly found itself with a prime scoring opportunity.
Dukes starter Lauryn Mattox induced a lineout for the first out of the inning and induced a groundout for the second out, though Raburn scored on the play to give the Dusters a 1-0 lead. Brooklyn Nelson reached on an error with two outs and Kaeley Klein singled, but Mattox struck out Beyonka Garcia looking end the inning.
Raburn took the circle for the Dusters and struck out the Dukes in order in the bottom of the first. Holdrege tacked on another run in the top of the second on Raburn’s sacrifice fly to left field and took a 2-0 lead into the home half of the inning.
After Lauryn Haggadone lined out to shortstop to lead off the inning, Mattie Pohl recorded the Dukes’ first hit on a single to center field. With two outs, Libich singled on a ground ball to shortstop to put runners on the corners, but Hoblyn flew out to center field to end the inning.
Mattox worked around a two-out single to keep Holdrege off the board in the top of the third. She then nearly put York on the board in the bottom of the inning, but the Holdrege center fielder caught her fly ball just shy of the fence for the second out.
Cori Combs kept the inning alive by beating out an infield single to third base and advancing to second on an errant throw, but Sam McDaniel grounded out to end the inning.
Mattox worked around a leadoff walk to toss a scoreless top of the fourth, but York still trailed 2-0.
After Haggadone popped out to third base to lead off the inning, Pohl smoked a ground ball into left field for her second hit of the game. Ellie Peterson laid down a bunt for the second out, but courtesy runner Ashleigh Hills advanced to scoring position as Libich stepped to the plate.
Libich cranked a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence for a game-tying, two-run home run.
The game didn’t stay tied long. On the third pitch of the following at-bat, Hoblyn launched a ball over the center field wall for a solo shot to give the Dukes a 3-2 lead. A strikeout ended the inning, but not before York had shifted the momentum with a three-run inning.
Holdrege put a pair of runners on in the top of the fifth, but Mattox coaxed a foul out to Hoblyn at first to end the inning and preserve the lead.
Mattox then singled to lead off the bottom of the inning and advanced to second on a throwing error. McDaniel cashed in on the scoring opportunity, cranking a one-out triple to center field and extending the lead to 4-2.
Haggadone stepped to the plate and crushed ground ball into left field for an RBI double. Pohl lined out to third for the second out of the inning, but Peterson singled to right field, where Holdrege’s Jenna Gustafson couldn’t field the ball cleanly as Haggadone raced home for the sixth York run.
Libich singled to left field for her third hit of the day as Peterson scored, but she was thrown out trying to advance to second base on the play to end the inning.
The four-run outburst gave York a 7-2 lead entering the sixth inning. After Mattox allowed consecutive singles to lead off the top of the sixth, McDaniel entered in relief as Mattox moved to shortstop.
With the corner infielders drawn in to protect against the bunt, Gustafson tried to steal third. However, Pohl fired a strike to Mattox – who was covering third – and the freshman applied the tag in plenty of time for the first out of the inning.
McDaniel then coaxed a ground out and a pop out to extinguish the threat and keep the York lead at seven runs.
Hoblyn singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth and Mattox followed with a one-out single of her own to put a pair of runners on for Combs, who singled to right field to score Hoblyn. McDaniel then drove in Mattox with an RBI ground out to extend the lead to 9-2, but Haggadone flew out to center field to end the inning.
McDaniel worked around a two-out single in the top of the seventh, striking out Klein to end the game and give the Dukes a 9-2 win on senior night.
Mattox earned the win, allowing two runs – one earned – on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts in five-plus innings. McDaniel tossed two scoreless relief innings while allowing just one hit and a strikeout.
“Pitching-wise, I thought we did well,” Meyers said. “One thing we do need to learn is to quit extending the inning. We get two quick outs and then it seems like we walk a person, we allow a couple hits. That’s a couple of things the pitching staff needs to learn.”
On York’s senior night, four seniors powered the Dukes lineup. Libich went 3 for 3 with a two-run shot and three RBIs, while Hoblyn went 2 for 2 with a solo home run. Pohl and Combs also recorded multi-hit games, while the freshman Mattox added a fifth.
Overall, the Dukes racked up nine runs on 14 hits in the win as they improved to 9-9 on the season. York returns to the diamond Saturday morning for a tournament in Hastings.
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