With a game in jeopardy and the stakes high, it helps to have a dependable star to turn to.
Thankfully, the Zootown All Stars have Macey Newbary.
Newbary was nearly perfect on the mound, and hit a clutch three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to secure a 6-1 win over the Southern Californa All Stars in the Little League Senior Western Regional. It was Zootown's second win of the day, following a 3-2 victory over Oregon earlier in the afternoon.
"That was a classic Macey performance," manager Dennis Staves said. "Her and Kayleigh (Rosenbaum, who pitched in the first game) got us our two wins today."
The first game, Staves said, started off well, with the local All Stars jumping to a quick lead in the first inning.
But then complacency struck.
"We just kind of went through the motions for a while," Staves said.
A run scored in the fifth and a bases loaded situation with just one out gave Oregon another, cutting the deficit to just one run.
But Rosenbaum stayed calm, getting two outs to give Missoula its first win of the five-day tournament.
The second game was even more dramatic.
A gritty, nine-pitch at-bat by Jaime Schafer produced an RBI to give Missoula its first run, and the Montana girls seemed content to coast off a stellar performance from Newbary in the circle.
The Missoula Big Sky standout was perfect through four innings before giving up a leadoff single to Fontana, California's Vanessa Arringer that sailed right past Newbary's head up the middle. A sacrifice bunt moved Arringer to third, and she then scored on a perfectly executed squeeze play, tying the game at 1-1.
"It takes a lot of guts to call that play," Staves said. "I don't think our third baseman realized they were running it. That was a great call they made there."
That score lasted until the top of the seventh. With their backs against the wall, and playing as the away team because of the round-robin pool style, Missoula needed a rally.
It started innocuously enough, a single blasted by the California shortstop. Then, a slap-bunt by Natalie Schwab, the No. 9 hitter, put two on with just one out.
A sweet swing Newbary later, the score was suddenly 4-1.
"She was throwing outside the whole game, and I was getting really annoyed with it, so I just said 'I'm gonna hit this ball,'" Newbary said.
But Zootown wasn't quite done.
Adessa Gagner reached base on a bunt, and Callie McKillop roped a single before Fontana made a pitching change. Taylor Holmes then took advantage, knocking in both runners before being thrown out trying to take second.
Three more outs by Newbary in the bottom of the seventh secured the win for the All Stars. They play two more Saturday, which Newbary hopes will be a little less exciting.
"We've been kind of in a slump, so I hope tomorrow everyone comes with their bats and is ready," she said. "I think today we were glad just to get out of there with two wins."
Missoula gets a team from Arizona at 9:15 a.m. and then plays a team from Northern California at 3:15 p.m. Both games will be at Dale Clawson Complex.