LIBERTY - One day after fanning 16 Leopards, things weren't as simple for pitcher Neco Maderitz and Girard in the return leg in Liberty.
The Indians managed to hold off Liberty to earn a 5-4 win in an All-American Conference, National Division game on Wednesday. Maderitz said that with the 9-1 win from the previous day, the team expected a tougher time in the second game.
"We just had to work harder today to get a win," Maderitz said. "After a second time seeing each other, they're going to come back wanting to beat us when we beat them."
At the start, Girard (7-3, 3-2) seemed to be cruising to another easy win over the Leopards (1-5, 0-3).
Maderitz gave up one run in the first inning but turned things after that, striking out the side in the second and third innings. The junior added another two in the fourth and finished the game with 12 strikeouts - just four short of her total from the prior day. She improved to 6-3 as the Indians' starting pitcher.
Adding to Maderitz's pitching performance, the Girard offense took care of business early, led by Kylie Kulon. The senior third baseman parked her first non-inside-the-park home run since her freshman year in the second inning with a solo shot over the right-center field fence.
Kulon almost had another RBI in the third off a single to right field, but Liberty's Taylor Dressel threw out Alli Rose at the plate for the final out in the inning.
Girard coach Renny Paolone heaped praise on both Maderitz, who has received attention from Robert Morris and Gannon, and Kulon, who will play college softball at Gannon next year, following the game.
"I've been coaching for 40 years," Paolone said. "This are two of the best players I've ever coached in any sport - football, basketball, baseball, softball. These two are dedicated, great students and great kids. Seriously, I can't say enough about either one of them."
The Leopards didn't go down quietly, however, coming alive in the bottom of the fifth.
Liberty pulled back three runs, two of which were unearned because of a throwing error by Girard first baseman McKenzie Teter on a pickoff throw from home plate. This allowed two runners to move into scoring position.
Two runs came home off a Leah Leschnack sacrifice fly to center field. Raven Wilson, the first runner, knocked the ball out of the Girard catcher Annie Parillo's glove while sliding, and Amy Milculich took advantage of the confusion to score.
"We've been struggling all year just to get runs on the board," Liberty coach Jordan Ingalls said. "It was nice to see us score in the fifth inning because we finally busted it open and we put a couple of runs together. They needed that - they needed to know that's what they're capable of."
The Liberty offense stalled after that inning, though, and the Indians escaped with a win.
Paolone left Liberty impressed by his team's opponent and said the Leopards are better than their record suggests.
"Liberty's a very good softball team," Paolone said. "I'm very impressed with that team. They're going to win some games before this year is over."