When Lambert pitcher Marissa Guimbarda jogged to the mound to close out a complete game against rival West Forsyth, a Longhorns win looked all but inevitable. Not so fast.
The sophomore had allowed just two runs and five hits through six innings, allowing the Longhorns (3-0, 3-0 Region 6-AAAAAA) to build a comfortable lead with only three outs left to get. Those final three outs proved to be the afternoon’s toughest, but Lambert held on for a nervy 9-8 road win over West (2-2, 1-2) Tuesday.
“That West team scrapped until the end, which is not easy to do when you’re down 9-2,” first-year Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood said. “They kept coming to the plate, grinding out tough at-bats, and once they scored a few in the seventh, the momentum turned in West’s favor. With the added West-Lambert rivalry, that only added to it.”
Guimbarda got Lambert on the board in the third inning with a two-run double on a high fly ball that fell in between West outfielders Peyton Erb and Kayla Hardy. West manufactured two runs in the bottom half of the frame. Randee Bernstein (2-for-3) lined a sharp single to left field and advanced to second when Kaitlin Holloway couldn’t field cleanly. Alana Frye struck out after an 11-pitch at-bat but reached base on Guimbarda’s wild third strike. Peyton Erb (2-for-4) drove Bernstein home with a sacrifice fly. Frye later came full circle, scoring on Guimbarda’s second wild pitch of the inning.
Lambert broke the contest open with four runs in the fourth inning — Zoe Miller singled, Skylar Aledia bunted and reached second base on West third baseman Hayla Seitz’s throwing error, Catherine Harper singled to plate Miller before Holloway loaded the bases on an infield single. The Longhorns wouldn’t tally another hit in the inning but scored three more runs on a wild pitch, an RBI groundout and a sacrifice fly.
“We did some things defensively that put us in that big hole,” West coach Justin Rickett said. “We have to be better in order to take care of our business, but it’s only the fourth game of the season. We haven’t had time to work those kinds the kinks out.”
Guimbarda (2-for-4, 4 RBI) added what would be a crucial two-run home run in the sixth, giving Lambert a 9-2 cushion.
So West designated player Alana Frye dug in with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh . Guimbarda (7 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 2 BB, 6 K) jammed the right-handed Frye, inducing a ground ball to shortstop Savanah Huffstetler. The Tennessee verbal commit tagged out Bernstein, who was trying to advance from second to third, but threw low to first. Erb followed with a run-scoring single. Bailley Concatto singled and sprinted to third on Huffstetler’s second throwing error of the frame. Concatto scored on another Guimbarda wild pitch. Mandy Thompson, batting for the second time in the inning, sent a plodding ground ball to second baseman Skylar Aledia for what should have been the final out, but Aledia couldn’t get the ball out of her glove.
“Our kids fight hard,” Rickett said. “They were having good at-bats the whole time, against a really good pitcher, so I felt like it was only a matter of time before we started getting some hits.”
With right fielder Kayla Hardy (3-for-4) stepping to the plate with two outs and a runner on second, Guimbarda couldn’t afford any more mistakes.
“All I had to do at that point was make one good pitch,” Guimbarda said. “I knew I had my defense behind me to make a play.”
They did. Hardy lifted a lazy fly ball to right field. Shelby Dean took four steps in and clutched the final out with two deliberate hands.
“This is what I expected. We thought we were going to be in for a battle coming in here,” Youngblood said. “When they were rallying, nobody’s shoulders slumped out in the field. Guimbarda was still zoned in, making her pitches. West found a couple spots where we weren’t. That just happens sometimes.”