POCATELLO — After 14 innings and 16 runs apiece, both Century coach Bruce Givens and Pocatello coach Josh Naylor knew the gap between their teams was thinner than tissue paper.
So when Naylor sent Anna Campbell, the potential go-ahead run, home from third on a pop-up to the fringe of the infield in the top of the seventh, Givens understood exactly what he was doing.
“You know what, I probably would have tried the same thing,” Givens said. “You have a sophomore second baseman, she’s going back into the hole, and she has to throw a strike. ... You have to try to make something happen.”
Only problem for Pocatello was, Century second baseman Natalie Andersen not only made the play on the pop-up, but fired a frozen rope to the plate to catch Campbell and end the inning with the game still tied at 5-5.
“We were having a hard time scoring runs, and on that play, it’s more difficult for an infielder than it looks,” Naylor said. “They don’t always expect the runner to go, and then they have to gather themselves, get the momentum and make the throw. (Andersen) made a perfect throw, but if she doesn’t, we score. In that game and with that runner, I felt like we needed to try to get another run in.”
Libby Evans slid home on a passed ball in the bottom of the inning, giving the Diamondbacks a 6-5 walkoff win at Century on Thursday. It meant that, after an 8-7 win by Pocatello and a 9-8 win by Century in the first meetings between the two teams, the season series between the two Gate City rivals turned on two plays at the plate that were decided by just a couple of feet each.
Those couple of feet put Century (11-4, 3-2 4A District 5) in charge of its own district destiny. Beat Preston on the road next Thursday, and the Diamondbacks will host the district tournament as the No. 1 seed. Lose and that opens up all kinds of scenarios, especially if Pocatello (10-10, 2-3) beats Preston on Tuesday.
The Preston-Poky-Century trio has been linked all year after being put together in the three-team District 5. It’s been no different on the softball field than it was on the gridiron in the fall or the basketball court in the winter.
With so much familiarity, there are no surprises between the three rivals.
Givens and Naylor knew basically from the last pitch of the previous game between the two who’d be starting the rubber match — senior Aramy Glaser for the Diamondbacks and freshman Miah Lusk for the Indians.
“We handed off lineups to each other an hour before the game because it was no secret what was going to go on,” Givens said. “I’ve got a senior and he’s got a freshman. He’s going to have four good years with her, and we have to ride our senior until the end of the year.”
The two made an interesting contrast in the circle. Glaser, the bespectacled senior with a pink-purple streak in her hair and a compact delivery, worked up and away with precision, blowing the ball past Poky hitters with velocity that belied her small frame.
“It’s a bit stressful, because I’ve played with them in summer ball and they’ve all seen me,” Glaser said. “But with that, I know most of their weaknesses, the pitches they can’t hit. (I was) keeping it high and outside, and for some of them that were scooched in on the plate, keeping it inside. A lot of them weren’t expecting it.”
Lusk, the freshman phenom for Pocatello, pulled her arm back and to the side like a windmill spoke on every delivery, and worked up, down, in, out — all around the zone and plenty of times outside it as well.
She took 113 pitches to get through 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking three. Glaser struck out eight and walked none, taking just 88 pitches for her complete game — and throwing as many strikes (67) in those 88 pitches as Lusk did in 113.
The disparate approaches got the two pitchers to the same place — until the very end separated, by the thinnest of margins, Glaser’s Diamondbacks and Lusk’s Indians.
“I think, when you have two evenly-matched teams like we both are, it’s who gets a break, and today we got a break,” Givens said. “These girls, they all play together in the summer, they all know each other. I don’t think it helped any playing them close the first two games. I just think, like I said, we got lucky today. You hate to lose on a passed ball, but you like to win on one, because it’s still a win.”