MANLIUS – Sometimes all it takes is one big shot to break up a pitcher’s duel. Princeton’s Libby Boyles was ready to deliver.
The junior first baseman cracked a two-run home run in the top of the sixth-inning to give Princeton to a three-run lead over host Bureau Valley.
The Tigresses added one more run in the seventh inning and pitcher Katie Bates finished off a 5-1 victory.
It was somewhat of an awkward moment for Boyles who’s homer came off of travel teammate and Bureau Valley pitcher Tyra Sayler.
“It felt pretty good. It was off an old teammate, so it was more bittersweet,” Boyles said. “It didn’t really feel like a home run. Felt more like a line drive, which is what we’ve been working on in practices, just base hits up the middle. That’s where it was.”
Princeton coach Joe Bates said Boyles’ homer came at just the right time.
“Seemed like we were gaining momentum a little bit as innings wore on, putting balls in play. But, yeah, that was a big home run. Got us going, and that was enough to give us the victory,” he said.
Katie Bates and Sayler, who have history dating back to taking lessons from the same pitching coach at 8 years old and playing on travel teams together, were locked in a scoreless duel for three innings.
Bates retired nine of the first 10 batters she faced with five strikeouts. Sayler retired 11 of the first 14 batters she faced into the fourth inning, allowing only an infield hit in the third.
“I thought Tyra and Katie both pitched well. It was nice seeing them smile back and forth,” Bureau Valley coach Greg Sayler said.
The Tigresses (7-3) finally broke through on Sayler with two outs in the fourth when Boyles reached on a drop fly to the outfield, and catcher Olivia Alter followed with an RBI double.
Sayler got that run back with one swing of the bat, belting a home run to left field to tie the game at 1. It was her first homer off her buddy in blue.
Freshman second baseman Addie Hecht beat out a routine grounder to the shortstop to lead off the Princeton fifth. Hannah Muehlschlegel doubled, sending Hecht to third. Hecht was easily out trying to score on a pitch to the backstop when catcher Darla Kepner tossed to Sayler for the out.
Taylor Wetsel, who led Princeton with a three-hit game, singled up the middle to score Muehlschlegel and put the Tigresses back on top, 2-1.
The Storm (2-7) had their chance to break the game open in the fifth. Josie Edlefson reached on a throwing error and Bre Broers doubled, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Joe Bates had seen what Sayler could do at the plate and gave her a free ticket to first to load the bases. Katie Bates retired Kepner, who had two of the Storm’s five hits, on a pop-up just outside the circle to end the threat.
“We had our chances with the bases loaded. Thought we could break it there with Dar and came up short. But it was a fun game,” Greg Sayler said.
Boyles, who has moved up to the No. 6 hole in the Princeton lineup, followed a leadoff walk to Bates in the sixth with a two-run blast, her third long ball of the season. She said the move up the order “definitely boosted my confidence.”
“She’s hitting good percentage and hitting the ball hard. She’s earned it,” Joe Bates said of Boyles’ new spot in the lineup.
Joe Bates said the Princeton-Bureau Valley game is a friendly rivalry with the many friendships between the teams.
“Everybody knows everybody. It makes it a lot of fun. Little awkward, but fun nonetheless,” he said.
The Bureau County rivals will play again Thursday at Princeton.