PREP SOFTBALL: Sears smashes a pair in NorthWood's comeback over Wawasee

Apr. 19—NAPPANEE — Baserunning and clutch hitting did the trick Friday night in NorthWood's late 4-3 comeback win against Wawasee.

NorthWood freshman Payton Sears and senior Brooklin Brubacher dealt the damage.

Going 2-3 at the dish Friday night in home conference action against visiting Wawasee (6-3, 1-2 NLC), Sears ripped two doubles to the wall, scoring two runners for the Panthers (4-5, 2-1 NLC) including the game-tying run in the sixth inning.

Trailing the Warriors 3-2 in the home half of the sixth, it was NorthWood's pitcher Ana Beachy who led the inning off with a two-bagger. Standing at second with one out, Sears delivered the base knock, driving in Beachy.

Then, with Wawasee pitcher Haylee Allen collecting her 11th strikeout of the game, it was the pinch hitter Brubacher who delivered the fatal blow.

Brubacher swung on a pitch inside, but when the ball dropped on top of the right foul line, Sears rounded third and scored. 4-3 Panthers.

"Payton Sears stepped up at the plate and that was really big with her couple of doubles that she hit," Panthers coach Mandy DeMien said. "Brooklin Brubacher coming off the bench and hitting that double was huge too. She did her job."

Wawasee, which held a 3-0 lead through three innings, had watched what looked like a soon-to-be conference win slip away. The Warriors weren't done yet.

Allen ripped a liner that was caught by NorthWood second baseman Victoria Vega, but Ava Couture singled and Kenadi Pierce drew a five-pitch walk. The Warriors were cooking until a grounder to third was scooped up by third baseman Leah Rowe. Rowe retreated to third, stepping on the bag before firing to first for the game-ending 5-3 double play.

"Leah's one of my best defenders and she did a phenomenal job," DeMien said. "She knew what she needed to do and that was exciting."

"We did the little things to keep them off balance," said DeMien on what allowed the Panthers to comeback in Friday's contest. "Ana did a fabulous job in the circle and kept their hitters off balance but my second baseman [Vega] played a phenomenal game and had some really good plays at second."

Beachy threw all seven innings, allowing seven hits but striking out five.

In Wawasee coach Chloe McRobbie's viewpoint, there were a few reasons why her Warriors wound up on the wrong side of the scoreboard Friday.

"Just not executing at the plate and playing down," said McRobbie about what factored in the loss. "Our girls are phenomenal hitters, they just didn't get the job done at the plate.

"We have a really bad habit of playing to our competition," McRobbie added. "Sometimes it's good when we play some good teams but when we play teams that aren't as good as us, and then we play down to their level, we're going to lose. We just have to constantly remind them to play our Wawasee softball and play our game and do what we need to do."

The road Warriors made their first impression on the scoreboard in the third. After leadoff hitter Natalya Holder led off with a single, Allen drove her in at the next at bat with an RBI single which scored Holder from second after her second stolen base of the night.

In the fourth, Wawasee added on two more. Back-to-back doubles from the bottom of the order placed runners at the corners with nobody out. After Holder was intentionally walked to load the bases, a passed ball scored the runner from third. Still at bat was Allen who sent out a sac-fly to center field to drive in second run to take a 3-0 lead.

Sears doubled in a home run in the fourth before NorthWood added on in the fifth. With two outs in the inning, Rowe took a walk from Allen. With nobody covering second, Rowe hustled on over to the confusion of Warrior infielders.

Rowe then danced towards third, forcing Wawasee catcher Brooklyn Davis to fire towards third. Rowe dove but the ball bounced into left field, scoring the Panthers second run.

The defense's miscommunication allowed NorthWood to carry the momentum into the sixth where they took the lead.

"The ball was loose and I just sent her and it was one of my slower runners but I knew she knew the game enough so she could score," DeMien said.

"Just a lack of communication," said McRobbie on allowing Rowe's trip around the basepath. "It's been a problem. It's just something we need to work on, talking more and being on the same page. We haven't necessarily played together before so it's just everyone getting on the same page and communicating is the biggest issue."

Wawasee outhit the Panthers 7-6.


Allen may have taken the loss Friday night, but her six-inning performance, allowing six hits but striking out 11 came after a milestone achievement earlier this week in a different conference match.

Hosting Warsaw Monday, Allen passed 500 career strikeouts with the Warriors. She's played since her freshman year but made sure to set a few goals for her senior year. She reached one of them against the Tigers.

"It was good to see her [get it]," McRobbie said. "She works really hard and she's humble. I was really proud of her. She was really happy. She felt like the community was proud of her. She represents Wawasee softball really well."

NorthWood hosts Warsaw Monday while Wawasee returns home Saturday to play in the Wawasee Invitational which includes Leo, Whitko and South Bend Clay.

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at