Reservoir pitcher Kylee Gunkel talks about the Gators 6-5 victory over Howard on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
What a difference a month can make.
After losing 12-0 against Howard during the first week of the regular season, Reservoir came out on Wednesday afternoon and showcased just how far it has come since its most lopsided defeat of the season.
Kylee Gunkel set the tone in the pitching circle and the Gators’ bats delivered late, including three runs in the top of the seventh, to secure a come-from-behind 6-5 victory to hand the Lions just their second league loss of the season.
“We’re a young squad and in the early part of the season when we lost our first three games, we just hadn’t been playing together enough yet. So to come from that to now getting an exhilarating win like this against a great ball club in Howard, it says so much about how this group,” Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said. “Everybody is contributing and doing what needs to be done in order to come back and take a W like this”
The win is the third in a row for Reservoir (6-5, 7-7) and moves the team above .500 in league play for the first time this spring. Howard (10-2, 11-5), meanwhile, saw its seven-game county winning streak snapped.
In the decisive final inning, the Gators got a leadoff hit from Taylor Davis and then took advantage of smart base running and a pair of costly errors by the Lions. Reservoir didn’t register any more hits, but moved runners over, took extra bases and eventually scored three times to turn a two-run deficit into a one-run lead.
Then in the bottom of the seventh, Gunkel helped set the Lions down in order to secure the victory.
“We have to learn from our mistakes or at least outhit them, either way you want to put it,” Howard coach Chuck Rice said. “But this today is not the way we play ball and we have to be better.”
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Gunkel, who drove in one of the runs in the final inning courtesy of a ground out, said the Gators have capitalized on a small-ball approach during the second half of the season — putting the ball in play and making things happen.
“We aren’t about big swings … we have been poking the ball lately and putting little plays in,” she said. “As long as we are going single, single, single, we’ve been [able to] keep it going.”
The singles certainly added up for a Reservoir team that finished with just one extra-base hit, a double by Rhiannon Little in the top of the fifth. It was a 2-RBI single by Paige Bright (2-4, 3 RBI) in the top of the fourth that broke open a scoreless game and put the Gators ahead 2-0.
Howard responded with a run in the fourth (RBI single from Ashlyn Moynihan) and three more in the fifth (RBI groundout by Lindsey Smith and 2-RBI single from Moynihan) to take a 4-2 lead.
But Reservoir kept chipping away, getting one back on another RBI hit from Bright in the sixth. Then, after Howard added an insurance tally in the sixth, the Gators made the most of their final time up to bat.
“This team, they really are fighters,” Frisvold said. “They listen to us and they don’t settle when we are down a couple runs. They continued to push until that final out.”
Gunkel ended up scattering nine hits and striking out three during the complete-game effort, allowing her defense to make plays behind her as necessary. On the other side, Samantha Hobert pitched a complete game as well for Howard, surrendering eight hits and striking out five.
Reservoir will look to keep its momentum going on the road Friday against Mt. Hebron, another team the Gators lost to during the first week of the season.