It was the late-inning long balls that decided Wednesday evening’s softball game between Riverside-Brookfield and Oak Park.

The Bulldogs (10-4,1-2) edged the Huskies 4-3 at Oak Park as RB put three runs on the board in the seventh inning via home runs.

“It was our best comeback of the year,” said Bulldogs head coach John Vermillion. “Our team has the capability to hit the long ball, and we just tried to hit line drives get base runners.”

With the Huskies up 3-1 to start the seventh inning, Bulldogs junior Ashlee Haugh got things started with a solo shot to left field to bring her team within one. After junior Anibelle Gardiner popped out to Huskies first baseman Jenna Rouse, senior Tierney Duffy singled to left center. With two outs, RB senior Becky Mantel hit a pop-up in foul territory that slipped through Rouse’s glove to keep the inning alive. The next pitch she sent over the fence, scoring the game winner.

“I was telling myself: ‘Down and hard, you have to get this, look for the (pitch) that you like,’ and I found it,” said Mantel. “I was focused, I really wanted it. I knew I had to execute and get the run in.”

Things looked promising for the Huskies (9-6) in the sixth inning as they took a 2-1 lead on an RBI single off the bat of Rouse to score junior second baseman Samantha Davidson, who had led the inning off with a single. With one on and two outs, senior outfielder Caitlin Bell reached on an error by Duffy to knock in junior shortstop Valerie Cundari and give the Huskies a 3-1 lead. Despite the big inning, the Huskies still couldn’t overcome their troubles of leaving runners on base. They stranded a total of nine runners in the game.

“We left a lot of runners on base in critical situations,” said OPRF head coach Mel Kolbusz. “(The Bulldogs) won the game, and we helped them out. We have to be better with finishing games and not making so many mistakes.”

Rouse went 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Huskies, while Bell was 1-for-2 with an RBI. Junior outfielder Dana Alcock finished 2-for-3 with an RBI groundout to Duffy in the first inning to put the Huskies on the board.

Mantel went 1-for-3 with two RBIs for the Bulldogs, while senior Kelly Rusen had an RBI double in the fifth inning to knock in Haugh, who led the inning off with a single. Haugh finished 2-for-3, and her home run was key to the seventh inning comeback, according to Mantel.

“It gave us good momentum to know that we’re still in the game,” she said. “To know that we can still get it done, that we are the Bulldogs and we will come out and we’re ready. We needed that momentum and when Ashlee hit that home run it got us riled up and ready to go.”

Photos by J.GEIL/Photo Editor