Lady Dogs top Mamou in extra-inning thriller

MAMOU – With Iota’s Abigail Leonards and Mamou’s Amber Manuel locked in a pitcher’s duel through seven innings, hits were few and far between in Friday’s Class 2A regional contest between the two district rivals.

But with the score deadlocked at 0-0 in the eighth inning, McKenzie Armand provided the spark that the Lady Dogs needed.

Armand, a freshman catcher, led off the top of the eighth by crushing a 2-2 delivery from Manuel over the right center field wall to lift the Lady Dogs to a dramatic 1-0 victory.

“McKenzie came through and she was very focused on her at-bats tonight,” said Iota second-year coach Louise Johnson. “She has been having good at-bats at practice and in the games and she came though in a time that we needed it the most.

“She can hit with power, it’s just a matter of catching it. It’s not a surprise that she came through because we see it every day.”

Armand’s homer was the difference in the game, but Leonard’s performance in the circle was what got the Lady Dogs to the eighth inning.

Leonards, a sophomore, scattered four hits on the day and struck out seven in eight innings, including Katelyn Bellard to end the game.

“Abigail has been pitching her behind off all year,” said Johnson. “She’s a workaholic, she’s as focused as can be and she deserves to pitch like that.”

The Lady Dogs had opportunities to give Leonards run support early, but timely hits eluded them throughout the first seven innings.

The Lady Dogs stranded 11 runners on the night, eight in scoring position.

“We had opportunities throughout the game to score,” said Johnson, whose team lost to Mamou twice in district play. “That’s what happened to us earlier in the year against them. We had a couple of good at-bats throughout the games but we didn’t have a big one when we needed it with people on base. And we really didn’t get one with people on base today either.”

The Lady Dogs threatened with runners at second and third in the second frame but a strikeout ended the inning. Then in the fourth, Iota loaded the bases with one out but Manuel was able to get out of the potential jam with a strikeout and a groundout.

Mamou, on the other hand, was unable to get a runner past second base the entire contest.

Sidney Lafleur reached base on an error and the first inning but was left stranded at second. She reached again in the third, this time on a fielder’s choice, and was standing on second when Bellard struck out to end the frame.

Alaina Komorowsk doubled with two-outs in the fifth inning but a line drive to Holly Guillory at first base ended the threat.

Emily Vidrine gave the Lady Devils hope in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out single to center. She was tagged out at second on a grounder to April Sensat for the second out before Leonards got a strikeout to end the game.

Manuel was solid until the final frame. She gave up six hits and struck out 11.

“Both pitchers were just awesome today,” said Johnson. “Both of them handled the strike zone, threw strikes and didn’t walk many.

“Nobody lost this game. Somebody just won it. They (Mamou) are a state tournament team just like we are a state tournament team. You’re not going to see a better game than this over there.”

Vidrine had two hits for the Lady Devils while Manuel and Komorowsk each had one.

Armand and Gabbi Heinen each had two hits for the Lady Dogs while Guillory and Rae-Leigh Johnson each had a single.

Friday’s victory sends Iota to the Fast Pitch 56 tournament at Sulphur’s Frasch Park for the first time since 2004. The Lady Dogs will take on No. 4 seed Riverside Academy at 4 p.m. on Friday.

“This group have never been there but they know people who have been there,” said Johnson. “And last year, we came within a whisker of beating to DeQuincy to get there. We didn’t want that happen again.”

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