The moon rising over the mountains beyond center field, the Friday Night Lights shining down, the big crowd that filled the bleachers and surrounded Elm Park's perimeter created quite the atmosphere. The way Alexis Bower and Kayla Gee were pitching, it seemed all those at Elm Park might experience it all night.
Then Williamsport first baseman Samantha Fischer changed everything.
Fischer delivered a two-out, sixth-inning RBI single that broke a scoreless game. One pitch later Taylor Brooks dropped a perfect RBI squeeze bunt. Those two hits and Bower's one-hit pitching carried Williamsport to a 2-0 win over rival Loyalsock on Friday in the opening round of the Williamsport Tournament.
Williamsport’s Alexis Bower is out at second base as Loyalsock’s Ashleigh Bair makes the tag during the game Friday at Elm Park. View more photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"The pressure is on and you know if you get that good hit than your teammates will carry on through. It was my opportunity," Fischer said. "It feels really good to beat them. This is one we were looking forward to. We knew we had to buckle down and get some hits. The crowd, the lights, it all just increased the excitement of the game."
Bower threw her second one-hitter in as many days and has allowed just two hits in her last three outings. She and Gee provided all the excitement through the first five innings as the senior and freshman took turns looking brilliant. Bower struck out 13 and Gee struck out seven and neither showed any signs of letting the other team do anything all night.
Bower, though, hit a two-out, bases-empty single in the sixth before sister Mikayla followed with an infield single. That set the stage for Fischer who singled in her previous at-bat. The junior wasted no time, hitting the first pitch into center field and giving Williamsport (8-2) the lead.
"Samantha Fischer has been stepping up and coming through with clutch hits all year long," Williamsport coach Quint Bower said.
"I knew she was pitching me outside so I had to move up in the box, throw my hands up there and do my thing," Fischer said. "It always feels good because I knew my teammates were going to build on it."
Brooks provided a huge insurance run by perfectly executing something she has been working on all season. The sophomore right fielder skillfully placed her bunt between the pitching circle and third base, effectively giving no defender a chance to get it and allowing Mikayla Bower to score the second run.
The way Alexis Bower was throwing that lead might as well have been 20-0. The reigning Class AAAA Player of the Year took a no-hitter into the fourth inning, had seven strikeouts through three innings and bottled up an offense averaging more than 10 runs per game. Only Allison Czap's fourth-inning single kept her from throwing a no-hitter.
Loyalsock (10-2) did put two runners on in the sixth via a walk and error with one out. As quick as the rally started, though, Bower ended it, striking out the next two. After hitting Ally Kennedy with two outs in the seventh, Bower induced a game-ending groundout as Williamsport advanced to the semifinals at 10 this morning play the winner of the Archbishop Wood-Pittsfield Southern game that was still being played as of the newpaper's deadline. Loyalsock plays the loser of that game at noon.
"That's one thing about Alexis. When the pressure is on, she steps up and comes through," Quint Bower said. "Loyalsock is a great team and takes a backseat to no one. You like the rivalries but you don't want to see anybody lose when there's friends on the other side and the good thing is it was a well-played game by both teams."
"I always want to play the best competition and to see that kind of pitching we're only going to get better. We're going to learn from it and get more experience from it," Loyalsock coach Tom O'Malley said. "She (Bower) was great tonight. She was dominant and overpowering. All the credit to her and Williamsport. They played a great game and our girls played well to."
Loyalsock backed up Gee with error-less defense. Williamsport's offense produced half of its eight hits during that sixth-inning rally. Alexis Bower went 2-for-2 and reached three times while Brooks reached twice.
Williamsport000 002 0-2 8 3
Loyalsock000 000 0-0 1 0
Alexis Bower and McKenzie Tebbs. Kayla Gee and Amanda Daneker. W-Bower, (8-2). L-Gee, (7-2).
Top Williamsport hitters: Bower 2-2, R; Mikayla Bower 1-3, R; Samantha Fischer 2-3, RBI; Taylor Brooks 1-2, RBI. Top Loyalsock hitters: Allison Czap 1-3.
Records: Williamsport 8-2. Loyalsock 10-2.