Lowe outduels Bunte, Sidwell delivers go-ahead double as Wolves beat Raiders in extra innings


Pleasant Hill's Maddie Sidwell celebrates after hitting a two-run double in the eighth inning of the Wolves' 5-2 victory over Quincy Notre Dame on Saturday at The Backyard. | Shane Hulsey photo

QUINCY — Maddie Sidwell won the deciding battle, and the Pleasant Hill softball team won the war.

Sidwell’s bases-clearing double with two outs in the top of the eighth inning broke a 2-2 tie and propelled the Wolves to a 5-2 win over Quincy Notre Dame in the QND Softball Slam at The Backyard on Saturday.

After falling behind in the count and fouling off three two-strike pitches, Sidwell belted a changeup from Raiders pitcher Caitlin Bunte deep to left field that just eluded Marah Becks’ grasp, allowing Hannah Hill, Jade Peebles and McKinley Lowe to cross the plate and give the Wolves a three-run lead.

Sidwell, who was in the lineup for the injured Kali VanStrien, had to keep her nerves in check during that at-bat.

“I was taking deep breaths in between every pitch,” Sidwell said. “I was really nervous. Whenever I hit it and I rounded first, I was hoping it was down. Then everybody started yelling and I realized it was down.”

Lowe said she didn’t see the ball land, but once she realized her team had taken the lead, she lost control.

“I didn’t see it because I was running home,” she said. “But I knew as soon as I got in and then I saw Hannah scoring, I was going feral.”

Wolves coach Ryan Lowe had a slightly more subdued reaction, one of more relief than anything else.

“I was just praying,” the coach said. “Then when I saw (Becks) turn, I thought, ‘We’ve got her burnt.’ When I saw it land, I was like, ‘This is scoring everybody.’”

The McKinley Lowe-Caitlin Bunte pitching matchup lived up to the billing. Lowe matched a season-high with 19 strikeouts, surrendered just five hits and allowed one earned run. Bunte struck out 13 batters, walked two, and gave up one earned run through seven innings before allowing two in the eighth. Lowe said going toe-to-toe with pitchers like Bunte brings out the best in her.

“I love getting to face great pitchers, and Caitlin certainly is one of those,” Lowe said. “She makes me go harder.”

Bunte said it seemed like the game could turn on any pitch.

“It turned out to be a really good battle,” Bunte said. “It felt like it was just between the two of us.”

The Wolves (21-3) cracked Bunte in the top of the third as freshman Kaitlyn Borrowman lined a two-out, two-strike double to right field that Aubrey Waterkotte missed catching by mere inches, allowing Maddison Daniels to score the first run of the game.

“I just went up there with confidence,” said Borrowman, who had two hits off Bunte.

A misstep in the top of the sixth nearly cost the Wolves. With the score still 1-0 and Lowe on second with one out, Hill hit a sharp ground ball to Raiders third baseman Brooke Boden, whose throw to first short-hopped Morgan Zanger, skipped off her glove and rolled down the right field line.

Lowe was on her way to scoring easily but as she rounded third, she slipped and fell and had to retreat to third. Bunte then struck out Emma Henderson and induced a ground out from Sidwell to end the inning, stranding two runners on base.

The Raiders tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Alyssa Ley doubled to drive in courtesy runner Ava Price. Lowe struck out Lauren Miller and Becks to end the threat with Ley still standing on second base. Since the 90-minute time limit had expired during that half inning, if Ley would have scored, the Raiders (14-4) would have won the game.

“We were certainly at the doorstep of winning,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “We had opportunities, which is great, but we just didn’t cork one or bloop one in that would have caused a little more excitement.”

With the time limit reached and the game tied, the teams started each subsequent inning with a runner at second. Borrowman delivered a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh to give the Wolves a 2-1 lead, then Winking flared a single just inside the third-base line with one out in the bottom of the seventh to score Becks and tie the game at 2. 

After Sidwell’s hit in the top of the eighth, Lowe struck out Zanger to begin the bottom of the eighth. Boden then hit a pop up between second and third, and miscommunication amongst the Wolves infielders resulted in a desperation attempt by Lowe. The ball deflected off her glove and hit the dirt, bringing the potential tying run to the plate.

“That made it a little more interesting,” Ryan Lowe said. “That’s one of my pet peeves. We work on that a lot. That cannot land on the dirt. Somebody has to catch it. But errors happen, and we buckled down after that.”

On the next pitch, McKinley Lowe induced a fielder’s choice ground ball from Ley that deflected off Hill’s glove at shortstop directly to Daniels standing on second base for the second out. Lowe struck out Miller on three pitches to end the game.

An exuberant Lowe ripped off her facemask, pumped her fist, shouted, “Yesssss!”, and embraced her teammates on the way to the handshake line.

“Today was tough, and my teammates were right there behind me,” Lowe said. “They got me some runs when we needed it big. And Maddie Sidwell, I don’t know what else to say.”

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