The pitch was low and outside.
Or as Spartan Natalie Allen calls it, “my favorite pitch.”
Allen, a sophomore on the Bainbridge fastpitch softball team, stood at 1-2 in the count and waited for the next pitch.
She was stressed, she said later.
The bases were loaded, but not for the first time in this frustrating Metro League matchup against Eastside Catholic.
Sure, the Spartans led 1-0, thanks to a lead-off triple by Riley Gregoire and a score on a wild pitch in the first inning.
But in the second, the Spartans had also loaded the bases — a lead-off double by Emma Lindsay, a single by Megan Spray and a walk to Tiana Rabang — but ended the inning with a big goose egg.
It was deja vue in the third, too, as Bainbridge left the bases loaded despite one out singles by Kate Kinney, Deahna King and Lindsay, but the Spartans failed again at bringing home a run. Another zero for the scoreboard, and the score, still 1-0.
Then came the fourth inning, and Eastside Catholic pitcher Abi Kirsten found herself in another tough funk.
Kirsten had loaded the bases again — a walk to Tiana Rabang, a bunt single by Riley Gregoire, and a comebacker to the pitcher by Alison Reichert that was thrown home instead of to first — and Allen stepped up to the plate.
A ball and two strikes, and Kirsten hurled her fourth pitch to a waiting Allen.
Swing, smack, then a collective gasp from the small crowd watching the Spartans’ Metro League matchup.
It took a rainbow arc toward the left-centerfield fence, and as Allen churned her way to second, the ball finally thunked to earth and outside the fence.
“Grand slam!” came the shouts from the crowd.
The Bainbridge dugout emptied and the Spartans screamed and hollered as Allen rounded third. She was quickly was swallowed up by the mob of high-fiving, back-slapping and grinning girls at home plate.
Allen, a second-year player for the Spartans, had hit the long ball just three other times in her high school career.
“I knew that I hit it pretty hard, but I really didn’t actually know until it went over,” she said.
The sensational slam was a game-changer. The Crusaders looked shell-shocked afterward, and Bainbridge tacked on two more runs in the fifth and six innings to walk away with the win.
“It was really awesome because we were having trouble in that game. We had the bases loaded multiple times and we weren’t able to get people in,” Allen said. “It just felt really nice that we could break through that. Everybody was so happy and psyched about it.”
Allen later said she had her doubts that her big swing would clear the fence. Another Spartan had connected earlier in the game but the ball fell just short of the fence.
“Just the feeling of watching it go over, it was such a good feeling. When I saw it, it looked pretty over,” she said.
It looked pretty over for the Eastside Catholic players, as well, as the charged-up Spartans continued to vex the Crusaders.
In the fifth, with two outs and no one on, Gregoire reached base on an infield single and Reichert was hit by a pitch. The two pulled off a double steal to set up a two-run single by Allen, bringing her RBI total to six for the game.
Then, in the sixth, Catie Muir, Alyssa Costello and Lauren Vchulek all singled to begin the inning, with Vchulek driving in Muir.
With two outs, Gregoire drove in the final run with a single up the middle to settle the score 9-0.
Alison Reichert pitched a complete game; a 2-hit shutout for her fourth win of the season against no losses. She logged four strikeouts.
In the seventh inning, Carolyn Williams saved the shutout with an outstanding running catch in the right field corner.
With the win Bainbridge stayed perfect in Metro League play at 6-0. The Spartans are 6-1 overall.
Abi Kirsten led Eastside Catholic, she went 2-for-3 with a double.
Other outstanding Spartans include Gregoire, who went 4-for-5, with a triple, RBI, two stolen bases and three runs. Lindsay went 2-for-3 with a double, and teammate Vchulek was 1-for-2 with an RBI.