DIXFIELD — Katrina Pulk clobbered a two-run home run with no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning as Dirigo rallied for a 5-4 victory over Jay at Marble Park on Monday in a key MVC showdown. The win provided valuable Heal Points for Dirigo (8-5), which was ranked No. 6, and clinched for the Cougars a Western Class C playoff berth. It was the second consecutive come-from-behind win for Dirigo, and avenged a loss to Tigers last month.
“A lot was going through my head,” said Pulk, who also hit a three-run homer in the first inning. “It’s all about winning. This is our senior year and we wanted a winning record. We practice hard on situations and (today) we kept our composure and made the plays that we needed to make.”
Morgan Hutchins led off the eighth inning with a walk against Jay pitcher Alexii Smith to set the stage for Pulk, who deposited the next pitch beyond the chain-link fence.
Jay (7-6) had taken a 4-3 lead on a solo home run with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. The ball just eluded the outstretched glove of Dirigo centerfielder Mariah Larson.
Dirigo jumped ahead early as Larson and Alyssa Charity each drew walks against Smith. With one out in the first, Pulk hit the ball out.
“The kids were aggressive for the most part,” Dirigo coach Clint Dolloff said. “We did miss a couple signs and made a couple mistakes running the bases. But, when we tried using our speed their catcher did a good job of throwing the ball.”
Jay nearly put the game out of reach before Dirigo could rally. The Tigers had Smith and Alexis Blodgett on first and third with no outs in the sixth. Cougar starting pitcher Alyssa Wade struck out Ashley Quirron and Paula Despres hit the ball hard to Hutchins at third base. The senior snared it and threw to Charity, who blocked home plate.
Wade retired the first nine batters, until Deering led off the fourth with a single. The sophomore threw an effective changeup to the Tiger batters. Dirigo shook things up as Kyme Dolloff pitched the fifth, but Wade returned to pitch the final three innings.
“It was a change,” said Dolloff, who had deployed a similar rotation in a 10-9 win against Madison. “We had talked about it throughout the year and I was a little concerned after they hit Kyme hard, but it worked out.”
Jay had four hits in the fourth, including RBI-singles by Smith and Blodgett. Smith scored the tying run on the front end of a botched rundown attempt.
“Even in that big inning, our team remained positive,” Hutchins said. “We stayed together and worked as a team. We are not only messing together as a team, but individually we are becoming a close-knit group.”