Reservoir's Emma Bailey talks about the Gators' 16-5 win over Long Reach in the opening round of the 3A East playoffs on May 15. (Brent Kennedy / BSMG)
Up against a Long Reach team it had defeated by just one run during the regular season, Reservoir knew how important a fast start would be in the opening round of the 3A East playoffs on Monday.
And, courtesy of key strikeout by Emily Lloyd to get out of a jam in the top of the first and then some well-orchestrated small ball in the bottom half of the inning to grab the lead, the Gators got exactly what they were looking for.
Riding that early advantage, Reservoir ended up scoring in every inning against the Lightning — including a 9-run bottom of the fourth to break things open — on its way to a convincing 16-5 victory that earns itself a spot in the region quarterfinals on Tuesday against Centennial.
"We talked about how Long Reach is a good team and we were going to have to show up from the first pitch to the last pitch," said Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold. "So getting those two runs early was obviously big, but just as important was understanding that Long Reach could come back at any point and that we had to keep attacking. I think that urgency on both offense and defense really helped."
Reservoir (12-8) lead-off hitter Emma Bailey, who had three hits, scored three runs and reached base all four times, added that she thought the Gators' offense gained more and more confidence as the game went on.
"I feel like we feed off of each other because whenever we make good plays, we just keep picking each other up and building from there," Bailey said. "Especially hitting wise, once somebody hit a grounder and she got on, then somebody else hit a grounder and then they got on. It's a snowball effect."
On the other side, Long Reach kept things interesting despite trailing the entire way. The Lightning were down 4-0 after two innings, but responded with a pair of runs in the third thanks to a 2-RBI double from Lexi Warthen. Then, in the top of the fourth, Sayla Phillips, Kamryn Walker (2-2, walk, run) and Warthen each picked up RBI as Long Reach cut its deficit to 7-5.
But at the end of the day, Reservoir simply had an answer for every Lightning push.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, after Long Reach had seemingly grabbed the momentum, the Gators snatched it right back by sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring nine times. In that decisive frame, Hunter Little (2-3, 2 doubles, 2 runs, 4 RBI) and Holly Daum (3-4, double, 2 runs, 4 RBI) each delivered big hits that scored multiple runs.
"We've talked a lot about how we can't constantly be playing catch-up and unfortunately they hit every single inning and it took us one time through [the line-up] to get going," Long Reach coach Melissa Boardman said. "And we did have some solid hits and scored some runs, but it just wasn't enough at that point because they had established a lead. Credit to Reservoir, though, they played great today."
Frisvold said she was particularly pleased with the resiliency of her team and their ability to stay composed throughout, even as Long Reach began scoring in the middle innings.
"What I noticed was that the girls were talking among themselves before we came to bat [in the fourth inning] and it was 'OK, we've got to get those runs back.' The fact that they were saying it, not the coaches, was huge," she said. "They went up there and were very situationally focused — hitting to the right side with runners on, getting bunts down to move runners over. It was great to see that from top to bottom, everyone was focused in on what they needed to do."
Lloyd, who reached base all three times she came to the plate and scored a pair of runs, came through with big outs when the team needed them in the pitching circle. She had just a pair of strikeouts, but hit her spots and let the defense behind her make plays.
In the top of the fifth, she closed things out by getting a strikeout and a couple groundouts to Bailey at third base.
Reservoir now advances to face Centennial, which defeated Wilde Lake 16-0 in its opening round game. During the regular season, Reservoir swept the series between the two squads with 9-8 and 5-1 victories.
"Centennial is another really good team and they always bring their best to us, so we are going to have to again bring that focus," Frisvold said. "But I definitely expect it to be another really good game."