WNC Wins on Makenzie Hospodka’s Walk-off Homer
Home runs don’t get much sweeter than the one Western Nevada College freshman Makenzie Hospodka hit on Thursday morning in Twin Falls, Idaho.
Hospodka swatted a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to give WNC a 7-5 victory over Colorado Northwestern Community College in an elimination game at the Region 18 softball tournament.
“It was an exciting way to end the game,” said WNC coach Leah Wentworth. “It really proves what kind of fight they have, and if they continue to fight like, we can really challenge these other teams.”
The victory sends the Wildcats (13-45) into another elimination game Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. They will play the loser of the game between top-seeded College of Southern Idaho and Snow College.
A catcher with some speed and base-running smarts contributed to the Wildcats’ seventh-inning rally.
Sophomore catcher Heather Septon put pressure on the Spartans by reaching base to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Septon beat out an infield single, then took second base on a botched pickoff attempt. Cara McCarthy’s sacrifice bunt sent Septon to third base. That set the stage for Hospodka, a freshman from Damonte Ranch High School in Reno. Hospodka took the first offering from Vreni Lewis over the right-center-field fence with her game-ending blast. It was her fifth home run of the season.
Wentworth said she didn’t consider having Hospodka bunt in that situation.
“We talked about looking for something that she could drive into the outfield that would be deep enough to get Heather home,” Wentworth said. “They pulled their outfield in, and Makenzie made a nice, relaxed swing and made solid contact to put it out.”
The long ball has served WNC well late in the season. Septon blasted a pair of home runs in the Wildcats’ final home game on Saturday, and Covione slammed a two-run homer in the Wildcats’ 10-6 regional loss to North Idaho on Wednesday.
“We don’t talk a lot about the home-run ball,” Wentworth said. “Our hitters are a lot more comfortable and confident at the plate. It’s all coming together at the right time.”
Most of the scoring took place in the third inning.
CNCC jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Sydnie Swenson’s two-out RBI double broke the scoreless tie, and a hit batter, walk and an error contributed to the Spartans scoring three more times before starting pitcher Katilyn Covione got out of the jam.
The Spartans’ crooked number on the scoreboard woke up the WNC offense. The Wildcats came into the third inning with just one hit off CNCC starting pitcher Rilee Lutz, but five straight hits swung the momentum to WNC.
Madi Gonzalez’s bunt single to the first-base side started the rally, then Katelyn Bomar followed with a base hit to center. With one swing, Covione’s home run to center field off Lutz pulled the Wildcats to within 4-3.
The rally continued with infield singles by Andi Lee and Septon. After a fly out by McCarthy and a lineout to first by Hospodka, Jenny Rechel delivered a pivotal base hit to left to score both Lee and Septon and give WNC its first lead, 5-4.
Lewis, who relieved Lutz during the comeback, retired Bomar on a fly out with the bases loaded to keep it a one-run game.
CNCC left the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings as Covione and reliever Carlee Beck prevented the Spartans from establishing a lead.
However, the Spartans came up with their own big, two-out hit in the sixth to tie the score at 5.
A two-out stolen base by pinch-runner Daniel Brooks put the tying run in scoring position, then Mackenzie Gray deposited a single into right field, allowing Brooks to cross the plate to knot the score.
In three innings in the circle, Beck allowed just two hits and one earned. Covione got the first two outs of the seventh, but the Wildcats’ third error of the game put the go-ahead run on base. Covione, however, induced Emily Phillips into a groundout to end the threat.
Covione, who completed four of the seven innings, earned the victory. She allowed five hits and three earned runs. She fanned three Spartans.
“We mixed the speeds with our two pitchers, and it was really effective in keeping them off balance,” Wentworth said. “We saw how effective it was for North Idaho against us (on Wednesday).”
Septon, Covione and Gonzalez each supplied two hits. Septon also scored twice and Covione led the Wildcats with three RBI.
The win marked the Wildcats’ second regional tournament victory in the program’s six-year history.
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