By Rob Kiser
COVINGTON — When the Covington and Newton softball team get together, the outcome is rarely decided before the final out.
And Monday at Covington High School was no exception.
And after Newton took sole possession of first in the Cross County Conference with the win, Indians coach Mark Gibson couldn’t have been more excited.
“These girls just keep finding ways to amaze me,” Gibson said. “It is a great rivalry. I think it had been seven or eight years since we beat Covington, so these girls are pretty excited. It means a lot to them.”
And while Covington coach Mechelle Heitkamp was disappointed, she was also pleased with what she saw from her team — compared to Friday night’s loss to Russia.
“The kids were focused and played hard,” Heitkamp said. “This was a big improvement from Friday night and I was happy to see that. We just came up one run short.”
Newton improved to 14-1 overall and 8-0 in the CCC with the win, while Covington dropped to 11-6 overall and 6-1 in the CCC.
And the run that decided things came via a rule not a lot of people know.
The Indians were leading 6-5 in the top of the fifth with the bases loaded and two out.
Bailey Chaney hit a shot down the line that Covington third baseman Lexie Long made a diving stop on.
Long tagged Erin Norman heading into third — her only play. But, because she tagged her, it took the force off and Brooke Deeter scored because she crossed the plate before the tag.
“They got the call right,” Heitkamp, who discussed it with the umpires, said. “If you have ever seen the rule book, there is a lot of crazy situations covered in there. It makes sense. I just wanted to check with the umpires and make sure.”
Gibson said it was a great hustle play by Deeter.
“We work on base running all the time, but not a situation like that,” he said. “Brooke (Deeter) hustled home and scored before the tag.”
Covington got back within 7-6 in the fifth when Lexie Long doubled and scored on Kara Schaffer’s single.
But, Newton pitcher Kristen Rappold was able to get big outs when she needed them.
In the sixth inning, Covingon had the bases loaded with two out and hit a fly ball to right center.
Not only did Maddie Weaver make the catch, she held on despite being knocked over on a collision with right fielder Erin Norman.
“The sixth inning really looked good,” Heitkamp said. “But, we weren’t able to score.
In the seventh, Schaffer had a leadoff single, but pinch runner Morgan Studebaker was still standing on first after two failed bunt attempts.
“We had some big bunts in the first inning,” Heitkamp said. “And then we struggled with bunting after that. That was a factor in the game.”
But, an errant throw on a fly out allowed Studebaker to go to third, before Rappold got a ground out to shortstop Bailey Chaney to end the game.
“Kristen (Rappold) got some big outs,” Gibson said. “This was a big win for us.”
Especially considering the Indians found themselves in a 5-1 hole after two innings.
Newton had scored in the top of the first when Bailey Chaney reached on an error and Haley Pack singled her in.
Covington got started with a hit by Ashley Cecil to lead off the first, then got two perfect bunts from Justice Warner and Emma Dammeyer. a throwing error on Dammeyer’s bunt scored Cecil.
Kenzie Long had a sacrifice fly, Lexie Long had a RBI single and Schaffer’s squeeze bunt made it 4-1.
In the second, Chelsea Ford had a leadoff double and scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.
“Covington did a great job executing bunts in that first inning,” Gibson said. “They exposed some weaknesses we need to work on.”
But, Newton, with some help from nine Covington walks, was able to rally.
The Lady Buccs used all three pitchers — Kenzie Long, Lexie Long and Dammeyer in the game.
“It has been tough to find that go-to girl on the mound this year,” Heitkamp said. “It is tough to figure who is going to be on that night.”
After the first two Newton batters were retired in the third, the Indians scored three runs.
Deeter had a big two-run single, while Newton took advantage of four walks.
“We work on being patience up there,” Gibson said. “I don’t know if it was our patience or their pitching, but either way were able to get back in it.”
In the fifth, Rappold led off with a home run to tie it. Kylee Fisher singled and came around to score on a wild pitch to give Newton the lead and Deeter, Norman and Weaver all walked to load the bases and set up the unusual finish to the inning that propelled Newton to the win.
The Covington trio combined on a five-hitter, with four strikeouts to go with the nine walks. Cecil, Warner, Dammeyer, Lexie Long and Schaffer all had two hits for the Lady Buccs.
Rappold scattered 11 hits, walking four and striking out one.
“Covington is a really good team,” Gibson said. “I think they are very underrated in the state. Mechelle (Heitkamp) is doing a really nice job with them. This is a game where you never know what the outcome is going to be.”
Until the final out.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.