One swing of Joelle Krist's quick bat decided a classic match between two of the North Bay's softball Titans Saturday.
Krist smashed a shot over the center field fence to drive home both herself and walk-based teammate Meghan DeCoite giving Petaluma's T-Girls a 2-1 win over Alhambra's visiting Lady Bulldogs.
The win was the 19th straight for the T-Girls, who have lost only once this season. The loss was just the second for the Lady Bulldogs from Martinez, who are now 16-2-1.
Krist's blast was the difference in a suspenseful pitching duel between Petaluma's Dana Thomsen and Alhambra's Erin Enke. Both were on the top of their game.
Not only did Enke overpower the T-Girls with a blistering rise ball, but she kept them off balance with a baffling change that she threw on every conceivable count, including the first pitch. She allowed only two hits, walked six and struck out nine, including the side in the second inning.
Key to Thomsen's mastery was location. "I tried to mix up my pitches and keep it away from them," she explained.
Thomsen allowed five hits, but didn't walk a batter, striking out seven.
She needed only one extra-ordinary defensive effort from her teammates. In the sixth inning with one run already in and the potential game-tying tally at third base, Alhambra clean-up hitter Nicole Curry hit a smash at T-Girl second baseman Krist, who backhanded the ball cleanly, but rushed her throw, firing low to first base. First baseman Gina Barnacle not only saved the T-Girl bacon, but their lead, by cleanly picking the low throw to end the only Alhambra rally.
"This is what softball is all about," said Petaluma coach Kurt Jastrow. "We made a couple of miscues, but we played through them. It was a heck of a game."
Both sides had their chances, but neither pitcher would give in, and both were backed by clutch plays when they were most needed.
Enke was cruising with a no-hitter through the first three innings and wasn't much concerned with DeCoite coaxed a walk leading off the fourth. Barnacle got down a nice bunt to move DeCoite to second. Then, with eye-blinking quickness, Krist tagged what looked like a fast ball, and it soared over the center field fence with room to spare.
"It was amazing," the sophomore said. "It was kind of high and outside, and I was just trying to hit it. It really felt great."
The T-Girls advanced Brie Gerhardt to third base in the fifth, after she slapped Petaluma's only other hit into right field with one out. A walk to Thomsen and a force out moved her to third, but Enke reached back for a strikeout to leave her stranded.
Meanwhile, Thomsen survived a couple of those "miscues" Jastrow mention.
Curry started the Alhambra second inning with a laser shot that struck the top of the mesh outfield fence and went for a double. Courtney Kelly grounded out to shortstop Nicole Wiecks, and it looked like Petaluma had Curry cold as she tried to advance to third following the out at first, but the T-Girl infielder couldn't hold the throw, and Alhambra had a runner at third with just one down. Thomsen, as she did all afternoon, took care of business with a strikeout and a foul-out to keep the game scoreless.