NAPPANEE – Nothing warms the heart like a win over a ranked team.
A hearty and resilient NorthWood softball team proved that Tuesday night.
Although the gloves, hats and blankets also came in very handy too on this evening.
The hosts overcame a blustery day and an early three-run deficit with plenty of late heroics to send their frigid fans home happy after knocking off Class 2-A No. 6 Whitko 4-3 in 10 innings.
Freshman Lily Lomeli proved to be the biggest hero of the night for the Panthers in the non-conference contest at the Callander Complex.
Lomeli smacked a two-out RBI single off an 0-2 pitch to score teammate Brooklyn Troyer with the game winner as the Panthers rallied from a 3-0 deficit for the thrilling win.
Lomeli, one of four freshmen in the starting lineup for coach Mandy DeMien’s youthful squad, was almost at a loss for words to describe her huge hit.
“This means a lot to me,” said Lomeli. “It’s a heck of a win for us. I just had to convince myself that I could do it. I knew that my team was behind me.”
Lomeli definitely did it as she cracked a single up the middle off Whitko ace Ellie Snep. Snep, who entered the game in relief in the eighth inning, was 20-5 in the circle a year ago as the Wildcats won the first regional title in program history before losing in the semistate championship game.
DeMien saw her team recover after falling behind 3-0 after two innings.
“I’m just so proud of all of them tonight,” said DeMien, a former standout player at Northridge High School and Bethel College. “They fought. They did not give up and they played hard.
“This was a total team effort to win this game. Every one of our players played a key part in this win. I’m just so excited about the team I have this season.
“Lily is always aggressive at the plate and I knew that she would give it her best. I told our girls that we had nothing to lose tonight. This game is great preparation for conference next week. I also believe that it can be a turning point for us. We are such a young team. We just need experience and confidence and this should help with that.”
Whitko, which finished 24-6 a year ago, had a golden chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth. The Wildcats had runners on second and third with no outs before Madison Miller worked her magic to get out of the jam. Miller got an out on a bunt try, then fanned a hitter and finally retired leadoff hitter Augusta Garr on a grounder to third with the bases loaded for the final out.
Sophomore Miller, who fired a one-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 7-0 win over West Noble Monday night, earned the win in the circle.
NorthWood’s Troyer started the rally in the 10th as the freshman drew a leadoff walk. She then went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Amanda Jenkins for the second out. Lomeli then played hero and ended the 2:25 minute marathon.
Whitko, which falls to 2-1, scored a run in the first on an RBI double by senior Reannon Hopkins. The Wildcats made it 3-0 in the second frame on a two-run single by Garr.
The Panthers needed some clutch hitting in their final at bat in the seventh to send the game into extras. Sophomore Grace Anglemyer clubbed an RBI single to left field with two outs to tie the game at 3-3. Hallie DiMien led off the inning with an infield single, went to send on a sacrifice by Kylie Thornton and to third on a single by Kennedy Hochstetler before scoring the tying run.
NorthWood cut the deficit to 3-2 in the home half of the sixth. Alexis Klotz, one of just two seniors, cracked a two-run single to score Gracie Clark, who had walked, and Anglemyer, who had singled.
Sophomore Clark went the first seven innings in the circle for the Panthers. She had three strikeouts and five walks.
Freshman Augusta Garr worked the first seven innings for Whitko. Garr fanned four and walked one.
NorthWood, whose lone loss was a 7-2 final to Class 2-A No. 1 Bremen, improves to 3-1. Whitko, which had defeated Churubusco and Lakeland in late March, sits at 2-1.
NorthWood hosts LaVille and Whitko entertains West Noble today.