AYER -- Through six games of the 2013 season, the Ayer-Shirley softball team had not been able to claim a win.
It was understandable, as the team had been through a mid-season coaching change and was dealing with issues most teams do not have to face.
But on Friday afternoon, everything came together and resulted in getting that first mark in the win column. Keyed by a five-RBI day from Clara Watson, including a prodigious three-run blast, the Lady Panthers used a 10-run sixth inning to claim a 19-13 victory over Advanced Math and Science.
"We did a great job of working counts and putting the ball in play for most of the day, but especially in the sixth inning," said Ayer-Shirley interim coach Billy Wright. "It was a team effort and was great to watch the girls get that first win under their belt. We could have gotten down after losing the lead, but we fought back and that was great to see."
Trailing 2-0 heading to the bottom of the third, the Lady Panthers pushed across a pair of runs to tie things up. Maddie Mitrano was hit by a pitch, Erika Esielionis singled and Tina Babcock reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases. Anna Peck and Clara Watson followed by drawing walks to force home runs and knot the game at 2-2.
After the Lady Eagles answered back with a two-spot in the top of the fourth, Ayer-Shirley rallied for six runs in the home half of the frame to take their first lead of the day. Sydney Brinkerhoff got things rolling with a walk while Mitrano (single) and Warlia reached to load the bases. Esielionis followed a walk to force home a run before a wild pitch allowed another runner to score.
Babcock (single) and Watson (double) added run-scoring hits as the Lady Panthers grabbed an 8-4 advantage.
The lead was short lived as Advanced Math and Science Academy came up with seven runs in the top of the fifth. Walks and errors were the name of the game, as only one run was earned as the Lady Panthers saw a four-run lead turn into a three-run deficit at 11-8.
"We always seem to have that one bad inning in every game that dooms us," said Wright. "The fifth inning was tough because we had just grabbed the momentum and then gave it right back. I was interested to see how the girls would respond, and they came up big."
A single run in the fifth made it a two-run game and then Ayer-Shirley exploded for 10 runs in the sixth to take control of the game. Babcock walked, Peck singled and Watson walked to load the bases and Kayla Timmons delivered the first big blow with a two-run double to tie the game. Brinkerhoff (single) and Mitrano (walk) both brought home runs before some two-out magic put the game out of reach. Babcock forced home a run with a walk and Peck followed with a single before a wild pitch plated another run. Watson put the finishing touches on the big inning by crushing a three-run homerun to deep left-center field as the Lady Panthers now held a 19-11 lead.
A small rally was put together by the Lady Eagles in the seventh, but it proved too little, too late. Kassie Breest, who came on in relief of Stephanie Chillicky in the fifth, closed the door as Ayer-Shirley picked up their first win of the season.
"We have not had an offensive inning anywhere near like what we did in the sixth inning today," said Wright. "Every at-bat was solid and then Clara put the exclamation mark on it. I thought we got some solid work out of Stephanie on the mound, but she got a little tired in the fifth. Kassie came on and did a nice job in relief. Everyone had a hand in this win today and that was great."
Watson paced the offense with a homer, double, two walks, two runs scored and five runs-batted-in. Esielionis had three singles and three RBI. Peck contributed two singles, two walks and three runs scored while Babcock and Mitrano had a single, two walks and three runs scored apiece.