Archive for Thursday, April 15, 2004

A grand finish

Senior’s walk-off grand slam leads Lady ‘Cats to victory

April 15, 2004

With one swing of the bat Terra Nichols turned defeat into victory and gave the Lady 'Cats and their fans a memory to cherish for a long time. Nichols blasted a walk-off grand slam with two outs in the eighth inning, giving the Lady 'Cats a dramatic 12-10 victory over Santa Fe Trail on Tuesday in the second game of a doubleheader.

"Our bats finally came alive," Basehor coach Susan Mayberry said. "There's nothing like a walk-off homerun to win the game."

The Lady 'Cats managed just one hit through the game's first three innings, but exploded for five hits and three runs in the fourth, tying the score at three. The teams traded runs in the fifth.

Basehor pitcher Kristal Holland had her first 1-2-3 inning of the game in the top half of the sixth, and the momentum appeared to be swinging Basehor's direction.

Nichols, who finished 2-4 with 4 RBI and 2 runs scored, led off the sixth with a triple. She scored to give Basehor its first lead when Nicole Kirk laid down a bunt and the Chargers' pitcher threw the ball into left field trying to catch Nichols off third.

Kirk went all the way to third on the error, and Morgan Hale scored her with a sacrifice groundout. With the Lady 'Cats up 6-4 and Holland coming off her best inning, the game appeared in hand. But it was far from over.

The Chargers tied the game with two runs on three hits before Holland ended the inning with a strikeout. Holland had gone the full seven innings in a 4-1 loss in the day's first game, and she appeared fatigued going into extra innings.

The Chargers roughed her up for four runs in the eighth, getting help from two Basehor errors.

Holland was visibly frustrated to see the 6-4 lead turn into a 10-6 deficit in just two innings, but reached deep for a three-pitch strikeout to get the Lady 'Cats off the field in the eighth.

"She kept it at, she never quit," Nicole Kirk, Holland's catcher, said. "She got frustrated but she kept in there. She deserved the win because she worked so hard."

Holland stranded nine Chargers and struck out 6 over 8 innings. She also led the way at the plate, going 3-4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored.

With the Lady 'Cats down four in the eighth, a win for Holland seemed like a long-shot. But Kirk led off with a solid single up the middle, and there was a feeling in the air that the game wasn't quite over.

"I felt it personally when I got my hit," Kirk said. "I was like, ok I started it off."

Hale followed with a strikeout before Brandi Sirridge advanced Kirk to second with a single. A sacrifice grounder put them at second and third, but the Lady 'Cats had only one out left.

It was all they would need.

Amanda Hughes, Holland and Jenni Vardijan followed with consecutive singles, scoring Kirk and Sirridge and loading the bases for Nichols.

Nichols ran the count full in her at-bat, adding to the suspense of the moment. The Santa Fe Trail crowd howled with every close pitch that could have been strike three. Nichols had been extremely patient at the plate all game, but said it was especially difficult given the pressure of her eighth inning at-bat.

"I was just going up there to hit," Nichols said. "I hate those situations."

As the payoff pitch came, she laced a soaring line drive to deep left-center.

The Basehor crowd leapt to its feet as soon as the ball left the bat, but Nichols wasn't so sure.

"I didn't know it was going out until I looked out there," she said. "I was hauling."

The ball cleared the fence as Nichols approached second base. Her teammates flooded out of the dugout and met her at home plate for a wild celebration that some of their parents watched through tears of joy.

Later Vardijan would talk of answered prayers and Hughes would repeatedly say it was the best game she had ever played in. But as the Lady 'Cats gathered at home plate all they could think to do was hug each other and try to hold on to a rare and wonderful moment.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.