Southern softball coach Jack Nehsman celebrated his 100th career win with last Thursday's 18-5 victory over Edmondson, but the real fireworks didn't start until his 101st.
Yesterday's blockbuster featured 20 hits by each side and five home runs, as Nehsman's Bulldogs (10-0) outlasted visiting Patterson, 18-16, in a non-divisional meeting of archrivals at Latrobe Park.
Only 14 wins have come on the road for the 44-year-old Nehsman, whose team captured A Conference titles in 1986 and '90, and finished as runner-up to Western the past two years.
His Bulldogs can clinch this year's District 9, 3A league crown with two wins over second-place Southwestern, including a win in today's home game against the Sabres.
"It feels very gratifying," said Nehsman, who began his career in 1982 at Patterson, coaching the Clippers to a 14-3, title-winning record. "I've had a lot of great athletes.
Sometimes I just hang on to their shirttails and let [them] carry me."
Junior left-hander Michelle Liggett (8-0) is trying to join Southern's past title-winning hurlers, Darlene Leichling (1985, '86) and Stacey Warner and Mary Schoppert (1990).
For Patterson (10-1 in the 4A-2A league), which can tie unbeaten Western with a win Friday, the loss overshadowed an outstanding effort by shortstop Tracey Conner (3-for-4, six RBI), who scored two runs and lacked only a single to hit for the cycle.
Conner kept her team in the game early, giving the Clippers a 3-0 lead with her first-inning, three-run home run. The Bulldogs -- who led by as many as 10 runs -- rallied for a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the first before Conner's second-inning, two-run double knotted the game at 5.
"I thought we could take them and tried to keep everyone up," said Conner, who in the last inning tripled in Patterson's 14th run and scored the 15th.
Southern trailed, 18-15, with two outs and the bases loaded when Tishina Lacy -- who had a sixth-inning, three-run home run -- was walked. Shannon Delaney grounded out to end the game.
The Bulldogs exploded for six runs in the bottom of the second, sparked by consecutive bases-empty home runs from the squad's only seniors, shortstop Jen Cadden (3-for-4, two RBI, two runs) and catcher Kim Thomas (3-for-5, two RBI, three
runs). Larae Arminger had Southern's third home run in the final inning.
Southern led, 15-5, after Shannon Dodge doubled in her third RBI to cap a four-run fourth. Their lead increased to 17-9 after the Clippers' 11th and 12th errors led to both fifth-inning runs.
"I tried to tell them [her teammates] that we shouldn't get too comfortable," said Cadden, who lacked a double for the cycle. "They're our rivals, and it almost cost us."