With the winning run standing on first base and two outs, Mikayla Bower stepped into the batter's box just looking for a base hit to extend the game and let her teammates manufacture the decisive run.
Instead, despite the team's recent hitting woes, Bower drove the first-pitch offering to the center field wall, pushing across the winning run in Williamsport's eight-inning 1-0 win over Delaware Valley in the District 2-4 AAAA semifinals in a game moved at the last minute to Lycoming College over weather concerns.
After two quick outs to start the bottom of the eighth inning, Alexis Bower worked a four-pitch walk to put the winning run on first base. Mikayla Bower then drove the first pitch she saw over the center fielder's head, allowing Alexis Bower to race around the bases and score.
Mikayla Bower of Williamsport, left, runs to hug sister Alexis after driving her in with the game-winning double Thursday in their District 2-4 AAAA playoff game at Lycoming. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"Right when the ball came off the bat, I knew Alexis was going home whether it dropped in the field or out of the field," Mikayla Bower said. "She has more wheels than anyone on the team so I knew she would be in there."
For Williamsport, the game-winning hit came after struggling to put the ball in play with solid contact, as the Millionaires often rolled over pitches for weak groundouts or chased balls outside for lazy flyballs. The theme didn't last until the final at-bat, however, as the sophomore shortstop drove the ball with authority.
"A downfall of mine is I haven't been good at recognizing pitches lately, so I went up there with my dad's voice in my head saying 'Mikayla pick your pitch,'" Bower said. "I was just trying for a base hit. I knew that's all that I needed because I had faith that whoever was behind me would come through."
And while Mikayla Bower provided most of Williamsport's offense, her sister, Alexis, made sure Delaware Valley stayed off the scoreboard by throwing a complete-game three-hitter. Alexis Bower peppered the strikezone all game, striking out seven while retiring 18 of the last 19 batters she faced-with the help of some tremendous defense behind her.
"She didn't have one of her better pitching performances, but our defense was just outstanding today," Williamsport manager Quint Bower said. "Tiana (McCormick) saved a run in the third inning and some of the plays Mikayla (Bower) made in the hole at shortstop - I can't say enough about our defense."
That defense for Williamsport was critical, as it allowed Alexis Bower to mow down hitters in the circle while the offense as a whole struggled to manufacture runs in any way. The Millionaires left seven runners on base, four of which were in scoring position, and twice left two runners on in an inning.
"It's being selective and knowing what pitches we can hit and drive hard and having smart at-bats," Quint Bower said. "It's like we are a superb defensive team and a great pitching team, but when we get in the batters box it looks like some of us are scared and we have to get over that and take an aggressive approach."
Along with taking poor approaches to individual at-bats, the Millionaires struggled with the windup of Delaware Valley's McKenna Powell. Powell featured a quick delivery and forced Williamsport batters to get to their load faster and made recognizing and squaring up pitchers more difficult.
"I'm not the least bit happy with how we're hitting the ball. We aren't swinging at good pitches and loading and taking the barrel to the ball," Quint Bower said. "Right now, we are breaking it down into three things: get a good pitch, load, and square up the bat and we didn't do that tonight. I'm not taking away from Delaware Valley's pitcher, but we didn't do that tonight."
Delaware Valley 000 000 00 - 0 3 2
Williamsport 000 000 01 - 1 6 1
Alexis Bower and McKenzie Tebbs. M. Powell and T. Walters. W - Bower. L - Powell.
Top Williamsport hitters: Mikayla Bower 2-4, 2B, RBI; Alexis Bower 1-4, R; Taylor Brooks 2-3. Top Delaware Valley hitters: T. Walters 1-3; N. Mickles 1-3.