In a game that lasted more than three hours and ended just before dusk, the Grace Christian Academy softball team squandered numerous scoring chances and eventually lost to visiting Riverdale Baptist of Prince George’s County, 18-15 on Tuesday afternoon.

Grace Christian (3-3 overall) scored the game’s first run then fell behind 8-3 before rallying for a forge a brief 10-8 lead. The Crusaders (9-1) scored 10 unearned runs over the last three innings and withstood a late rally from the Knights, who pushed across one run before leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

Grace scored the game’s final run in a strategic move that left Knights fans bewildered and upset. With two outs and the bases loaded and his team leading 18-14, Riverdale Baptist coach Keith Hutchins opted to intentionally walk Grace senior Savannah Pauko to force in a run and essentially bring the winning run to the plate.

As Riverdale Baptist reliever Savannah Marshall was attempting to throw four pitches well off the plate, Pauko stood as close to home plate as possible just in case she could possibly make contact with one of Marshall’s pitches. Pauko eventually took her bases loaded walk, forcing in a run and narrowing the Knights deficit to 18-15.

“I have never been intentionally walked,” Pauko said. “I was not expecting that. I was hoping to get as close to the plate as possible and maybe hit the ball. I had a good hit my third time up, but they wanted to walk me so there wasn’t much that I could do.”

After Pauko was intentionally walked with the bases loaded, Grace was slated to send Ashley Glover to the plate, but instead sent up second baseman Briana Berry. It was the second time during the game that Glover had been skipped over in the order in favor of Berry, but it proved irrelevant when Berry struck out swinging on a 2-ball, 2-strike pitch to end the game.

“I thought we had some good hits today, but we still need to work on pitching,” Grace head coach Stacie Buhl said. “Defensively, we made a lot of mistakes today. We made some plays, but we had too many mistakes and miscommunications.”

Pauko had drawn walks in each of her first two plate appearances, but the Crusaders opted to pitch to her in the fourth. After third baseman Karly Cohen walked, Pauko crushed a Marshall delivery into the gap in right-center field for a triple. Pauko then scored on the first of three straight Riverdale errors and that enabled the Knights to score six runs in the inning to claim a 10-8 lead.

Both teams scored two unearned runs each in the fifth, then the Crusaders chased Knights starter Megan Reed by scoring seven unearned runs in the sixth to forge a 17-12 advantage. Riverdale’s Leah Wellington capped the onslaught by belting a two-run home run off Cohen. Vashti Johnson smacked a double in the seventh for the last Crusaders run.

Riverdale scored five runs in the top of the second to take its first lead of the day, but that appeared to be short-lived. On a day when the two teams combined for more errors (13) than base hits (11), it was actually two stellar defensive plays that defused the rally. Knights catcher Kaitlyn Perrotta chased down pop-ups in foul territory on consecutive batters for the last two outs of the inning, stranding three Crusaders runners.

Grace scored two runs in the home half of the inning courtesy of Crusaders starting pitcher Leelah Jackson’s wildness and appeared on the brink of a big inning. But with the bases loaded and Glover at the plate, Reed attempted to take home on a wild pitch and was thrown out. Glover was then supposed to lead off the third, but the Knights sent Berry to the plate instead.

Grace was scheduled to play at home versus Model of Washington, D.C., on Thursday and is next slated to play at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday versus Edmund Burke of Washington, D.C.

Twitter: tblacksomds1