BRUNSWICK — Asked how she approached a situation that requires the timeliest of hitting, Catoctin junior Madi Tobery couldn’t have been more matter-of-fact.
“Just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Tobery said Thursday at Brunswick.
For Cougars coach Jessica Valentine, that’s typical for Tobery, who doesn’t show much emotion in good times or bad.
“She doesn’t get very high, she doesn’t get very low,” Valentine said of Tobery, who drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning of the Cougars’ 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Railroaders.
That may be exactly the kind of trait Valentine would like all her players to have in games such as Thursday’s Gambrill Division contest, where it seemed as if Catoctin (14-2), no matter how hard it hit the ball, couldn’t buy a hit.
With one out in the seventh, Courtney Eyler, who stole home in the top of the first, was hit by a pitch. She advanced to second when Brunswick catcher Zaidee Byrd was forced to throw to first base to complete a strikeout of Mayton, then moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt. Valentine considered sending Mayton home when a pitch by Daisy Gardner bounced a few feet away from Byrd, but she quickly considered the hitter at the plate.
“I didn’t want to take the ball out of [Tobery’s] hands,” Valentine said.
Tobery, who earlier in the season hit a three-run homer against Boonsboro when the Cougars were down to their last strike, promptly hit a bloop single that went just over the head of Railroaders shortstop Abigayle Perry to give Catoctin a 5-4 lead.
In the first three innings of the game, Raegan Smith and Eyler pummeled the softball, but they both watched the ball settle into the glove of Brunswick outfielder Brianna Munday near the center-field fence. So before the Cougars took their turn at the plate in the top of the fourth inning, trying to cut into a 3-1 deficit, Valentine gave them a pep talk.
“We’re having good at-bats,” she told them. “If you keep doing that, you’ll see the results.”
Tobery singled and scored in the fourth to cut the lead in half, but when Rachel Fox made a bid for an extra-base hit with a line drive that would have plated the tying run, Brunswick’s Alexis Stone ranged far into the gap in left-center field to make a fine running catch. Then the Railroaders (10-4) tacked on another run in the fifth inning as Perry drew a leadoff walk and advanced from first to third on a sacrifice by Munday before scoring on an Daisy Gardner’s RBI groundout.
“[In those situations, you need to] keep doing what your doing, don’t change anything and don’t get frustrated at yourself,” Tobery said. “We were hitting the ball good, so I knew something was going to come around for us.”
Eventually, the hits started falling as Ashley Mayton and Smith strung together a single and a double to start the sixth inning. A squeeze bunt by Tobery plated Mayton, and Smith later scored from third on a wild pitch to tie the game.
On Wednesday, Valentine watched her team thoroughly enjoy a 16-1 home victory over Smithsburg, but she’d rather play more games such as Thursday’s because it will better prepare her team for the playoffs.
“Games like this are what’s going to make us better,” Valentine said.
In the circle, Mayton went the distance, allowing nine hits but consistently wiggling her way out of trouble, stranding nine runners on base.
“In the [first] two innings there, she struggled hitting her spots and getting ahead [in the count],” Valentine said. “You saw the other five innings how effective she was when her pitch count was down, and she threw more strikes than she did balls.”
Eight of the nine players in the Railroaders’ lineup collected at least one hit. Emily Stockman went 2-for-3 with a double, and Byrd came through with a two-out, two-run single in a three-run second inning.
“We played hard, but we made some mistakes, and you can’t make mistakes against a good team,” Railroaders coach Kevan Rabat said.