Pekin, however, extended two season-long trends in the bottom of the seventh. Back-to-back walks allowed Peyton Atwood to deliver a game-tying single before Lankford stepped up three batters later to deliver a two-out single to center, delivering another comeback win for the Panthers and another close loss to the Warriors.
“As a team we fight through it together,” Lankford said after going 3-3 against Van Buren while reaching base five times. “That was a big deal for me because I’ve been struggling lately at the plate. To be the leader and step up like that is huge. I had a good day.”
Van Buren finished the day 1-2. After shutting out Harmony in their second game 10-0, scoring seven runs in the fifth to close the game out, West Branch shut out the Warriors 8-0 despite an 11-strikeout performance in the pitching circle by Taylor Muringa.
“It’s been the story of our season,” Warriors head coach Eric Speer said after watching his team fall to 6-11 on the season with their next game scheduled for Wednesday at home against Wapello. “It’s all about executing the fundamentals. If you don’t execute those, you can’t expect to win.”
The victory over the Warriors gave West Branch two wins in the tournament to go along with a 12-2, five-inning triumph over Harmony. The two victories featured huge performances by Laing, who hammered two home runs well out of Pekin’s softball field as part of a four-hit, six-RBI tournament heading into the contest with the Panthers.
Laing didn’t slow down against the home team, drilling a pair of RBI doubles while scoring twice to help West Branch open up a 10-4 lead. With the time limit looming in the fifth, Marley knew his team had just one more chance to avoid losing.