“I knew we had the right kids coming up,” Marley said. “We had the top of our lineup coming up and I thought if we could just get a couple of girls on base, then maybe we could start to create something.”
Five-straight Panthers reached after Lankford was retired for the first time in seven plate appearances, pulling the Panthers within 10-6. Emily Adam’s two-out hit cut that deficit in half, but the 10-8 deficit appeared like it would hold up until Laing, the Bears’ hero of the day, booted back-to-back potential game-ending groundouts that instead allowed Pekin to bring in the two game-tying runs.
“We had no idea that was going to be the last inning,” Lankford said. “When we came off the diamond and they told us it was time to use the international tiebreaker, that’s when we first realized we were down to the end of the game.”
With the international tiebreaker in effect, West Branch went back ahead on a wild pitch by Lankford in the top of the sixth. Back-to-back hits by Leslie Stone and Maranda Baker answered that score and opened the door for Madelyn Baker, whose grounder to short would be good enough to bring home Stone with the winning run.
The three wins capped a very special Pekin softball tournament. After having their game at Southeast Iowa Superconference north leader Highland rained out Monday, the 17-8 Panthers will next be on the diamond tonight for “senior night” against Louisa-Muscatine.
Besides honoring their seniors, the Panthers will also honor Marley. After 25 years as head coach of the Pekin softball program, Marley will step down at the end of this season to be able to watch his own children as they begin playing softball at Fairfield next summer.