NORTH COLLINS - Emily Violanti took one for her team when it needed it most Friday.
After trailing 8-5 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Violanti capped a four-run rally which helped give North Collins (11-2, 9-1) at least a share of the CCAA Division 4 softball crown after the Lady Eagles defeated Ripley, 9-8.
"Teams score on us and (my team) comes back in to hit and they put the ball in play and make the other teams make plays," North Collins coach Jan Warren said. "I don't know how they do it. If they don't have to score, it doesn't seem like they do. But if they have to score, they do. There's only one pitcher we haven't hit all year and that's (Forestville's) Ryanne Dugan."
That's a compliment to one of the area's best pitchers, as Dugan hasn't allowed a run over her last 34 innings of work.
"I don't know if we can hit her," Warren added. "I'd certainly like a second chance and I think they deserve a second chance. But I'm not counting our chickens before they hatch, because we have to take care of business first."
Ahead 5-4 heading into the final inning, North Collins' pitcher Jessica Lawton was met with a driving rain storm. Pitching with a wet ball led to a hit batter a slew of walks that helped Ripley eventually take the lead on an RBI single off the bat of Shanda Mellors.
"In fairness to Jess, it was raining pretty hard," North Collins coach Jan Warren said. "But in fairness to Steger, the same conditions affected her too."
Steger walked Lawton and Nicole Torrey to start the bottom of the seventh, before hitting Ericka Bley to load the bases. Lawton scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 9-6, before Sam Gier walked to re-load the bases. A Beth Kibler two-run single scored Torrey and Bley while Veronica Richardson came in to run for Gier at second. She promptly advanced to third on a passed ball, but was unable to advance on an attempted bunt by Christine Blidy, who was retired at first. A walk to Kylie Mathis re-loaded the bases for Violanti.
Lawton allowed eight runs (four earned) on five hits while striking out three and walking six. She added a pair of hits, including a double and an RBI to help her own cause while Kibler (double) finished with a pair of hits and an RBI.
Emilee Steger suffered the loss, allowing nine runs - seven earned - on seven hits while walking four. Mellors finished with two hits in the loss.