Fans at Stewart Park on Friday witnessed a rare spectacle when Laurel completed a triple play that began with an incredible diving catch by Maurissa Gunn in center field.
But Billings Central pitcher Molly Day was the top draw. Day overcame a shaky first inning to throw five consecutive scoreless frames in the Rams’ 6-5 victory over their Eastern A rivals.
Central had several defensive lapses in the seventh inning and the Locomotives crawled to within one run, but Day ultimately closed it out with a strikeout and two groundouts.
“The first inning, I was like, ‘Ok, so they’re hitting me. Whatever. Now I’ve got to come back, get ticked and just go at ’em,’” Day said. “I think it’s better when I’m a little angry.”
Laurel scored on RBI singles by Gunn and Paige Hodges to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but Day gave up just two hits through the next five innings. Gunn had another run-scoring hit in Laurel’s three-run seventh, but none of those were charged to Day because the Rams made five errors.
“I’m not going to lie, I was freaking out,” Day said of the seventh. “Yeah, we made some errors, but in the end we pulled it out.”
The Rams tied the game in the second on Aubrey Walter’s two-RBI single. They got another run in the fourth on a base hit by Skylar Rockwell, and three more in the fifth on a two-run double by Morgan Smith and a run-scoring single by Maggie Meyer.
Central would have blown the game open in the fifth had it not been for Gunn.
With two runners on and nobody out, Gunn made a diving catch on a ball off the bat of Walter. The Central base runners, Meyer and Sam McNeely, were on the move because they never suspected Gunn would get to the ball.
But she did. Both runners were doubled off and Laurel got out of the inning with a triple play.
“Gunn made a phenomenal catch,” said Rams coach Coleman Rockwell. “In six, seven years I’ve never seen a triple play. That’s how good it was. It changed the complexion (of the game). They came back. Had they scored a few more runs that could have been a huge play that ended up winning the game for them.”
“She did make a nice catch, and the right things happened,” Laurel coach Greg Branstetter said. “Sometimes those kinds of things get a spark going.
“Our sticks just went flat for some reason. We don’t know why we watched so many strikes go by. But we came back and scored a couple runs and had a chance to win the thing, so we’re pleased with that.”
Walter, who is having a big year as Central’s freshman leadoff hitter, finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs. Rockwell had three singles and drove in a run. The bottom-third of the Rams’ lineup — Smith, Meyer and McNeely — went a combined 5 for 9 with three runs scored and three RBIs.
Gunn went 2 for 4 for Laurel. Starting pitcher Brianne Jones finished with four strikeouts.
Central improved to 5-0 in the Eastern A, while Laurel fell to 3-2.