WORTHINGTON -- Is it possible to lose a 10-0 lead in the last inning?
Yes. The Worthington 18U girls softball team almost did it Thursday night at Centennial Field, but finally prevailed, 10-8.
On a night where Storm players looked forward to their end-of-season picnic following their doubleheader with Sleepy Eye, a second-game setback would have made the hamburgers stick in their throats. Sleepy Eye had already won the first of the two five-inning games, 8-7.
As it was, the hamburgers slid down nicely despite what was, essentially, a weird finish to a game that the home team appeared to have totally under control.
Suffice to say: Sleepy Eye’s eight-run fifth inning was not Worthington’s fault. Inexplicably, the visitors, who were consistently unable to get good aluminum on Storm pitching through four complete innings, hit everything hard throughout the numbingly lengthy bottom of the fifth.
The harder pitchers Faith Kazemba and Sydney Ponto threw the ball, it seemed, the harder Sleepy Eye hit it.
Who can explain it? Ponto and head coach Jim Kazemba both tried.
“I think it was an attitude thing, and they had energy. And we were done,” said Ponto. “We thought we had the game won. We wanted to get our food.”
Explained Coach Kazemba: “Sometimes when there’s nothing to lose, they just swing for it. You never know what’ll happen.”
The Sleepy Eye twinbill was scheduled to be the final games of the regular season for Worthington, which now owns a sparkling 12-2-1 record. The locals have had good participation all season long from their roster, which on Thursday included 16 players. Perhaps some of them showed up for the picnic as much as for the games, but in any case the lineup card was filled out as democratically as it can get -- all 16 girls formed the batting order for both games.
There’s a pretty good chance Worthington will get one more game, at St. James. Regardless, it has been a successful year.
“We’ve had a very good year,” said Ponto. “We had a couple of games where we just didn’t show up. But other than that, we played good all year.”
“We had an excellent year,” remarked Coach Kazemba, now fully recovered from the fifth inning of Thursday’s Game Two, in which he at times looked ready to pull out what remaining hair he had on his mostly bald head.
“The only difficult thing, for me, is when we have a lot of girls -- getting them all in for the game,” he said.
That wasn’t a problem on Thursday, of course, with the 16-player lineups. The first game was tight throughout, and several Storm players hit the ball hard. Skylar Tosch belted a solid double in the second inning. In the third, Hannah Kazemba slugged a deep fly ball to the left-center field fence that she turned into an inside-the-park home run. Sadie Myers hit a screaming single in the fifth.
Worthington scored twice in the last of the fifth but fell one run short.
In the second game, the Storm tallied four runs in the top of the first inning, then put up another four-spot in the fourth, and two in the fifth. Madeline Petersen, Myers and Lauren Nelson had the team’s most impressive hits. Stephanie Kazemba showed off an excellent glove and throwing arm at third base.
All that was left was one more inning of dominance over Sleepy Eye’s hitters and then off to the banquet table.
But immediately, the visitors’ bats blistered Kazemba, who had come on to pitch after Ponto had mowed them down through three and two-thirds. So Ponto re-took the pitcher’s rubber. But to no avail. Sleepy Eye’s bats kept booming, and the runs kept crossing the plate until the impossible seemed possible.
Finally, the last out was made.