Freshmen bring Raiders back to beat Blue Devils

KANSAS – Lakota’s Aspen Ray said after Wednesday’s game against Carey that in high-pressure situations, a lot of people don’t expect a freshman to be the one to rise to the occasion.

For the Raiders, it wasn’t a freshman to step up.

“Two freshmen,” Lakota coach Chris Chalfin corrected.

In one-half inning, Lakota saw a 6-1 lead turn into an 8-6 deficit. But instead of folding, the young Lakota team rallied. The Raiders got within one by the time they came to the plate for their final at-bats.

There, two of the youngest players on Chalfin’s roster came up the biggest.

Bree Long-Meyer singled home Morgan Gangwer to tie the game and Ray followed up with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Another freshman, Aubrey Bickford, beat the throw home, giving the Raiders a 9-8 win.

“It makes me feel good cause everyone says freshmen can’t handle it,” Ray said. “But me and the other freshmen on our team, we stepped up. We spent a lot of time in the batting cages, so we can do this.”

“They came through,” Chalfin said. “They’re competitors. That’s what I like about them, they’re real competitors. Bree’s been struggling a little bit. She puts the ball in play a lot, but she’s been struggling really to come through with a base hit. She came through with one there in the last inning. Then Aspen hit the fly ball to right, got it deep enough to score (Bickford). Aspen also played really well at second.”

It’s OK to get knocked down as long as someone is there to pick you up.

After Carey scored seven in the sixth inning to erase the early lead Lakota built up, the whole Raider team was there to pick each other up, to enable a comeback.

“I told them out there they never quit,” Chalfin said. “We were ahead and things were going well, then we had that real bad inning where things didn’t go well. They never stopped fighting. I’m proud of them for that.

“That’s one thing about this group, and maybe its because they’re young, they don’t get real down on themselves when things aren’t going well. That’s a good thing. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

“We never give up. Everyone was up against the fence and everyone keeps everyones head’s up,” Ray said of the mood in the Lakota dugout during the final inning. “It never really drops. People get down, everyone picks them up.”

That was especially true of Gangwer, Lakota’s pitcher.

She admitted to going through a temporary loss of confidence in the circle when Carey took the lead. But she said her teammates helped lift her back up and she picked up the win, in addition to driving home a pair of RBIs and starting the seventh inning rally by reaching on an error.

“We were up for a while but then once we got down I got scared,” she said. “I didn’t feel like (the umpire) was giving me anything at the plate. I was throwing it down the middle, they were hitting it. My outfield was helping me. But once we got down, I felt scared. I didn’t think I could pull it through.

“My team picked me up. I tried harder. I tried to pitch from my original position and did my best.”

Carey struck in the top of the first when Ali Rymer drove home Makenzie Wentling for a 1-0 lead.

Lakota responded with two in the bottom of the frame. Alaina Bickford tripled home Nikkia Cooper, one of her three hits on the day, and came home herself on a Gangwer sac fly.

Lakota tacked on one more in the third when Aubrey Bickford singled home Cooper, and three more in the fifth. A Gangwer single scored Samantha Miller and two more runs scored off wild pitches.

But much like its counterpart, Carey refused to give up when facing adversity.

“I’m really proud of the girls for fighting back,” Carey coach Jenn Haught said. “We got down early but they were able to rally and get ahead.”

The Blue Devils left six runners on base through the first four innings. Finally in the sixth, they were able to get the big hits.

“I knew the holes were there,” Haught said. “Finally we started getting the ball through the infield. We got some big hits and took advantage of some of their mistakes.”

With two runners on, Chelsea Schlack delivered the first big hit singling home Jessica Wyatt. One more run came across on a bases loaded walk. Two more scored off a Lakota error before Hannah Draper put Carey in front with a two-run single. Katie Driggers singled home Draper to punctuate the rally.

Schlack had four hits with an RBI and a run scored to lead the Carey offense. Draper had two hits including a double and two RBIs.

The Blue Devils fall to 6-3, 1-1 Midland Athletic League, while Lakota improves to 7-3, 1-1.