Close games are nothing new for Oblong High School's softball team, but getting on the right side of them is.
However, the Lady Panthers have been doing that more as the season progresses and that trend continued Monday. It took them a few extra innings to do it, but Oblong was able to pick up a 3-0 victory at Red Hill in nine innings in Little Illini Conference play.
"Instead of losing those close ones, we are figuring out how to win them now," OHS head coach Galen Slover said. "I think we are starting to turn the corner."
The game was a pitcher's duel throughout, with Oblong's Emily Lockhart and Red Hill's Cheyanne Moan tossing zero after zero up on the scoreboard. Although the teams combined for 15 hits in the game, the two pitchers collected a total of 30 strikeouts in the game, with Lockhart fanning 18 and Moan sitting down 12.
No runs were scored over the first eight innings, but Oblong finally was able to break through in the ninth.
Cheyenne Wells started the rally with a single, then Kailyn Pinkston followed with a base hit and Madison Allen drew a walk to load the bases. Magahn Wells followed with a two-run single to plate Cheyenne Wells and Pinkston, then Baylee Sparks knocked in Allen with a ground out to give the Lady Panthers a 3-0 lead.
"We had runners in scoring position in a lot of innings, but we just couldn't get that big hit," Slover said. "We finally were able to string some of things together in the ninth."
Red Hill would get a run back in the bottom of the ninth, but Lockhart was able to slam the door and give Oblong the victory.
Lockhart went the distance, allowing one run on three hits, while walking four in addition to her 18 strikeouts to earn the win.
"Emily threw the ball well," Slover said. "She got in some tough spots, but she worked out of them and the defense played well behind her."
Cheyenne Wells led the offense for OHS with a double, two singles and a run scored, while Sparks singled three times and drove in a run. Magahn Wells posted two singles and two runs batted in, Pinkston singled and scored a run, Taylor Smith added two base hits, Kira Meese had a single and Allen scored a run. Oblong (6-10, 3-7 LIC) will be off for about a week, as they are to play at Lawrenceville for a LIC contest Monday at 4:30 p.m. The Lady Panthers do have a junior varsity contest scheduled with Robinson Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.