Nobody would have blamed Katilyn Covione if she had opted for the safety of the Wildcatsâ€™ dugout after taking a ball off the side of her face in the sixth inning on Saturday.
As Covione knelt on the ground and dealt with the pain of fouling a pitch off the side of her face, she focused on shaking off the injury and continuing her at-bat. A day earlier, she missed Western Nevada Collegeâ€™s two games against North Idaho after a pregame grounder cut her mouth and gave her an unrelenting headache.
The freshman rose to her feet after about a five-minute delay and stepped back into the batterâ€™s box. It was a decision that would transform her into a hero.
Several pitches later, Covione deposited a Miranda Powless pitch well beyond the center-field fence for a tie-breaking two-run homer as Western Nevada College surprised North Idaho, 10-8, in a Scenic West Athletic Conference softball game Saturday at Edmonds Sports Complex in Carson City.
â€œI knew I could hit. I just wanted to finish that at-bat,â€ Covione said.
But her coach wasnâ€™t so certain that her cleanup hitter could remain in the game.
â€œShe had a little traces of a headache from yesterday. She was really shook up and her ears were ringing a little bit,â€ said WNC coach Leah Wentworth. â€œI really wasnâ€™t sure if she would feel up to finishing her at-bat. I was really glad she wanted to because her bat is really starting to come on strong again, and weâ€™re seeing her consistency at the plate that we saw at the beginning of the year, so there was no one else I wanted up there but her.
â€œSheâ€™s a tough competitor, and I really felt like she could have helped us yesterday in the lineup.â€
North Idaho bounced back to win the second game, 8-2, to take the series 3-1.
They say a pitcherâ€™s best friend is a double play, but for Covione, her three-run first-inning home run served an even better comrade.
Covioneâ€™s three-run blast broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Wildcats confidence that they could break through for a win against North Idaho after six straight defeats to the Cardinals.
After giving up a 4-0 lead and a 5-4 last-inning edge on Friday, the Wildcats were determined to finish off the Cardinals on Saturday.
North Idaho, however, tallied the first run when Marissa Tarin crossed the plate on a two-out blooper into shallow left field by Hayden Fields.
But back-to-back errors by the Cardinals with one out in the bottom of the first got the Wildcats started offensively. Jenny Rechel reached first when second baseman Tarin dropped a throw covering first. A gust of wind caught a fly ball by Heather Septon and popped out of the left fielderâ€™s glove, allowing Rechel to move to third base and Septon to take second. Next, surging hitter Andi Lee took a Tori Almos offering into left field for a RBI single. Covione followed with her roundtripper over the fence in right-center field, giving the Wildcats a 4-1 cushion.
The Cardinals started the fourth inning with consecutive hits off the bats of Hayley Fields and Allison Paladeni, but Covione was able to limit the damage to one run, keeping the Wildcats in front 4-2.
Lindsey Ashbaugh led off the Wildcat fourth with a double to center field. A rally really began to take shape when Katelyn Bomar beat out an infield base hit by a step. Then, Madi Gonzalez delivered a key hit, lining a ball off the face of third baseman Madison Anthony, allowing Ashbaugh and Bomar to touch home plate, extending WNCâ€™s lead to 6-2.
Anthony showed her toughness, shaking off the line drive to lead off the fifth inning with a home run to left. The Cardinals pulled within 6-4 on Paladeniâ€™s RBI extra-base hit.
But the Wildcats didnâ€™t flinch. For the second straight inning, the Wildcats started by putting a baserunner in scoring position. Covione drove a Brittany Hecker pitch to the fence in right for a double. Meghan Hospodkaâ€™s groundout to the right side of the infield sent Covione to third base. Makenzie Hospodka slammed a Hecker offspeed pitching to the fence in center, scoring Covione. When the ball wasnâ€™t picked up promptly, Makenzie Hospodka stretched her double to three bases. Heckerâ€™s wild pitch allowed Makenzie Hospodka to trot across the plate, pushing WNC in front 8-4.
The deficit didnâ€™t deter the Cardinals from their objective. With Covione a pitch from getting out of the sixth and two Cardinals on base, the Wildcats had Anthony hung up between first and second bases after her RBI single off the glove of Lee. However, Septonâ€™s errant throw went into the outfield, allowing two more runs to score, trimming WNCâ€™s lead to 8-7. The Cardinals capitalized even more when Hayden Fields homered to center to tie the score at 8. North Idaho looked as if it would score more, but left fielder Makenzie Hospodka threw out Haley Fields trying to take third base in front of her on Palladeniâ€™s third straight hit.
â€œIt was a little (unsettling). They had a really good rally going,â€ Covione said. â€œWe all just had to calm down for a minute because they were really getting the momentum going.â€
But like they had throughout the game, WNC was able to counter the Cardinalsâ€™ scoring flurry.
â€œThey were really focused on winning every inning and taking it one inning at a time. I think that can be difficult for us at times, staying in the moment,â€ Wentworth said. â€œI think we were really doing a great job of that today.â€
Septon started the deciding rally with a one-out single to left field and took second base on an outfielderâ€™s miscue. After a fly out by Lee, Covione came to the plate with a base open. But Powless elected to pitch to her, and after the injury, Covione made them pay with her second homer and third extra-base hit of the game.
â€œIt was really great. This morning I was really nervous to take groundballs after what happened yesterday,â€ she said. â€œIt was nice because my parents were here, and it was great to come back after I got hit and hit it over.â€
The Cardinals threatened in the seventh, but a diving stop by shortstop Meghan Hospodka on a sharp grounder by Powless and a subsequent force at second base took the momentum from the rally. Covione finished the game with a strikeout.
â€œShe did a great job on the mound of holding back some pretty decent hitters,â€ said Wentworth of Covione, who also was the winning pitcher.
Covione had three hits, five RBI and three runs scored. Bomar and Makenzie Hospodka contributed two hits, and Rechel reached base three times and stole three bases.
In game two, the Cardinals scored first, plating two runs in the second inning. Hayden Fields homered off Carlee Beck to make it 1-0, then a Hayley Fields double was followed by a RBI base hit by Palladeni.
WNC got on the scoreboard in the third, thanks to a one-out double off the center-field fence by Bomar and two-out single by Rechel.
However, Anthony scored an unearned run in the fifth and Samantha blasted a leadoff homer in the sixth to expand the Cardinalsâ€™ lead to 5-1.
Beck, who pitched in both games Friday, worked the first three innings, allowing six hits and three runs. She was relieved by Covione.
Hunter Allen relieved Powless in the third inning and the different look gave WNC some problems at the plate. Allen gave up five and one earned run in 4 2/3 innings.
Leeâ€™s double in the sixth scored Rechel to cut North Idahoâ€™s lead to 6-2. Palladeni, however, slugged a two-run homer in the seventh to make the score 8-2.
Rechel supplied two of the Wildcatsâ€™ seven hits.
WNC raised its overall record to 12-36, including 9-30 in SWAC play. The Wildcats will travel to Snow College for doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday.