Billings Senior softball coach Dave Draeger found his daughter, Lisa, in the dugout and they slapped hands. A smiling Lisa then said, "I'm sorry I made you nervous daddy."
Yes, dad's heart may well have skipped a beat when he watched his daughter make a lunge at a seemingly routine fly ball in short center field in the fading daylight at Skyview's field Tuesday night.
But she made the catch and Billings Senior ended a four-game losing streak with a 7-6 victory over Billings Skyview in a marathon 12-inning, three-hour struggle.
Lisa's catch was a fitting end to a game that either team had ample opportunity to win. There were clutch hits, errors and mental mistakes mixed in with some very good plays.
"Either team could have won it," Dave Draeger said.
But it was the Broncs who did and kept themselves in the thick of the Eastern AA race at 4-3. Skyview (5-3) fell out of first place which the Falcons had earned by sweeping the Great Falls schools on Friday. They now trail Billings West (6-3) by a half-game.
For the defending State AA champion Broncs, it might be the boost they need.
"It puts us ahead. It give us more confidence," Lisa Draeger said.
After scoring just one run in their last four games, the Broncs collected 14 hits against the Falcons' Kelcey Cavan and Erica Dahl. Cavan had struck out 14 in her last outing a 3-1 10-inning victory over Great Falls.
Cavan whiffed 11 before departing in the top of the ninth when Senior took a 6-4 lead. Dahl kept the Broncs at bay until the 12th when Draeger led off with a single to right.
Draeger moved to second on a bunt by Sara Tuomi and scored on a single to left by Jenna Haacke.
"I just wanted to hit it hard, hit it strong," said Haacke, who'd earlier ended an 0-for-8 slump with a single that started a two-run rally in the fifth.
Going into the fifth, the Broncs faced a 4-1 deficit (due largely to Kim Getman's bases-clearing double for the Falcons). Haacke's single was followed by Meredith Daniel's base hit.
Kelly Marquardt, who started for the Broncs and pitched a gritty eight-plus innings, lofted a high pop up in front of home plate. It dropped between three Falcons, allowing Haacke to score and Daniel to reach third. Daniel scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-3.
The Broncs gained a 4-4 tie when Marquardt doubled in Jetton Meadors with two outs in the top of the seventh.
Senior took a 6-4 lead in the ninth aided by a misplayed bunt, an interference call on Skyview.
But the Broncs couldn't hold it. Meredith Brown drove in two runs with a single to left and Fuguere, who replaced Marquardt, finally got out of the inning when shortstop Sara Tuomi fielded a grounder and made diving tag at second for the third out.
Fuguere got out of jams in both the 10th and the 11th innings — the Falcons stranded two runners in each — before retiring the side in order in the 12th.
"I thought we were a lot more competitive and played together as a team," Dave Draeger said.
"For us, it was a great effort," said Skyview coach Scott Lynch. "We're doing the right things. It's good for us to be in this kind of a game."
Senior 7, Skyview 6 Senior 100 020 102 001 — 7 14 3
Skyview 003 100 002 000 — 6 12 2
Kelly Marquardt, Terry Fugere (9) and Meredith Daniel; Kelcey Cavan, Erica Dahl (9) and Lacey Meszaros, Michelle St. John. W — Fugere. L — Dahl.
Senior (9-7, 4-3) — Sara Tuomi 2-6, Jetton Meadors 1-7, Jenna Haacke 2-5, Meredith Daniel 2-5, Kelly Marquardt 3-5, Terryn Fugere 0-1, Melissa Dillon 1-4, Mara Hoskins 0-1, Libby Behling 1-5, Rachel Kennedy 0-4, Kendra Vandersnick 0-0, Lisa Draeger 2-4. 2B: Tuomi, Marquardt. RBI: Marquardt 2, Daniel, Haacke.
Skyview (10-6, 5-3) — Erica Miller 2-4, Lonnie Polkow 2-5, Michelle St. John 0-5, Lacey Meszaros 0-3, Meredith Brown 2-3, Kim Getman 1-4, Kate Steffanich 2-5, Sara Morrison 0-4, Erica Dahl 0-1, Mandy Lyon 1-6, Kortney Frank 2-5. 2B: Getman, Lyon. RBI: Getman 3, Brown 2.