With darkness quickly settling in Thursday evening at Bob Seitz Field, Jaycie Cline did all she could to pick up the signs from her catcher.
But with a substantial lead, the United Township sophomore pitcher trusted her defense and was rewarded with a stellar play from third baseman London Jackson to end the game and help the Panthers earn a 12-5 win in the nightcap with Moline after the Maroons won 12-2 in the opener.
The Panthers were down three runs early in the second game but put up seven runs in the fifth inning, starting with a three-run double from Brandi LaFountaine that tied the game 4-4 and awoke a dormant UT offense.
"That was huge; it was fun," said Cline (2-0), who earned the win and went 2 for 4 with three RBIs in the comeback. "We needed it. We were all down, we weren't here the first game. Then the second game our energy was up, and we were ready to win."
Thursday's games have been a rarity for the Panthers (2-1, 1-1), who have now played just three games this season, all against Moline. Thanks to the weather forcing numerous postponements and cancellations, it's been hard for the team to really get into a rhythm, and that was evident in the opener, which Moline won 12-2.
"It's tough, and you saw it in the first game," UT head coach John Alonzo said. "Not to make excuses — Moline played well, they hit the ball well — but we need more innings. That second game, you could see Jaycie start to get into the flow a little bit and our hitters get into the flow. ... We half expected what we got in that first game."
Moline (4-6, 3-1) took advantage of any rust that might have been on the Panthers in the opener, exploding for eight runs in the second inning. The Maroons tacked on another three in the fifth inning, then ended the game on an RBI double from Cierra McNamee in the bottom of the sixth inning that invoked the 10-run rule.
That showed just how explosive the Maroon offense can be, especially with the additions of Becca Barnett — an Alleman transfer who went 3 for 3 with a double and a triple in the opener and 5 for 7 overall — and Shelbi Westfall. Westfall transferred to Moline from Sherrard and allowed just two hits in four innings of work while also nabbing two hits and an RBI in the first game.
The Maroons jumped out to a 4-1 lead through three innings in the second game, thanks in part to a solo home run from Aubrie Dodd.
"We have really good bats, I just wish the weather would be a little bit warmer. I'm glad we had the opportunity to play today in this warm weather," Barnett said. "They're a really good team, they have a lot of good players. They don't give up, and we don't give up. I feel like it could have gone either way today."
After UT's big inning in the nightcap, Moline had a chance to get right back in the game, pushing across a run and loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth. But Madison Chase hit a ground ball right back to Cline, who started a 1-2-3 double play to get out of the inning.
Even after that inning, in the fading light of the seventh inning, the Maroons kept battling, getting a pair of runners on base before Jackson's defense ended the game.
"These girls do not quit," Gerlach said. "When we took our trip down to Tennessee (earlier this year), every game we were behind and they came back. They were good teams, and we never gave up. ... I admire that in them. They do a really nice job of hanging in there offensively."