Not many game-winning rallies have started with a strikeout. But a whiff was the key play for Burlington Central Tuesday.
Emily Kisch tossed a complete game and Courtni Neubauer had 3 hits as Central downed Richmond-Burton, 5-3, in Big Northern East softball action on Rocket Hill.
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Central trailed 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the second when No. 9 hitter Shelby Young swung at strike 3. The ball eluded Richmond catcher Sam Dahlen and Young raced to first. Kayla Ross beat out a bunt. Neubauer lined a smash off the third baseman's glove to score Young, and Bekah Harnish followed with a 2-run single.
To complete the backward rally, the hardest hit ball of the inning resulted in the third out. Kisch hit a hard smash that fell into left field, but Harnish was thrown out trying to take third.
"I was thinking I had to get the lead runner in and hit my placements," said Neubauer. "After the two outs, I was trying to get the team going again."
Neubauer drove in another run with her third hit in the fourth. Kisch made it stand up, retiring 11 in a row between the second and fifth innings.
Central (17-1, 9-0), which has won 14 straight, continues to persevere, despite a rash of injuries, and is closing in on its first conference championship since the 2009 team won the league and then finished third in the Class 3A state tournament.
"I've coached a lot of years, and I can't ever remember starting five freshmen in a game," said Burlington Central coach Wade Maisto. "I thought that Kayla (Ross) did a good job, both as the shortstop and the leadoff batter."
Ross and Harnish each had 2 hits for Burlington.
Richmond took an early lead after an uncharacteristically sloppy inning for Central. After the leadoff batter walked, Katie Kroll drove her in with a double just off the center fielder's glove. Kroll came around on a throwing error to put Central in an early hole. Kroll added a triple in the sixth.
The Central Rockets got 1 run back immediately on Lauren King's bloop single to center.