Vaughan took the mound for Game 1, posting 16 strikeouts through seven innings in the 9-0 win. Game 2 relegated her to third base until the Lakers needed help out of a late jam to complete a rare come from behind 8-2 victory
With the bases loaded, one out away and a three-run lead in the sixth, Vaughan relieved Avery Flynn with “game over” on her mind, recording two strikeouts to end the inning and three in the seventh to close it.
“I thought Avery (Flynn) threw phenomenally,” said Spring Lake head coach Bill Core. “She deserved better. We had a couple of errors and a couple 3-2 walks that put her in a tight spot with the bases load. To have someone like Leah who can come in and close the door like that is pretty nice.”
“I was just focused on getting an out, not really looking for a strikeout,” Vaughan said. “We just needed any out at that moment, and I try not to think about it. I focus on working with Molly (Poole), she does a great job framing my pitches, and I know I can trust my defense.”
As for her 16 punchouts in Game 1, credit goes to the catcher.
“I just do my best to throw hard and hit my spots,” Vaughan said. “Molly really is a lifesaver back there. She is so good at pitch framing and catching my wild pitches sometimes. I just throw hard and let everyone else take care of the rest.”
Vaughan’s dominant performance allowed the Lakers to pull away early in Game 1, while she, Alicia Mumby and Janna Ercole added multi-hit games at the plate with Poole jacking a solo home run.
Game 2 was hard-fought, as the Panthers threw everything they had at Spring Lake in an effort to derail their ludicrous 88-game conference winning streak.
“We are seeing everyone’s best game,” Core said. “We have a target on us. I tell the girls that we have to bring our ‘A’ game every night because the other team is.”
Comstock struck first in Game 2, nabbing a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The Lakers calmly handled the deficit on defense, but couldn’t muster a run through the second inning.
They finally found the plate in the third as Elena Lindsey reached base on an error and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Juliette Goldberg. The pitchers cleaned things up, with Vaughan knocking a single and Flynn bringing everyone home with a 2 RBI single. Kendra Kieft took over for Flynn on the basepath, immediately stealing second and heading home courtesy of an RBI single by Molly Poole for a 3-1 lead.
The Panthers swung back in the fourth, capitalizing on a rare fielding error by the Laker defense to cut the lead down to 3-2.
The top of the Spring Lake batting order took back the lead in the fifth, with Jenna Core finding first on a walk before stealing second and third base to set up a Poole sacrifice RBI. Mumby followed the run up with a double, stealing third base to set up a Layni Wyns RBI single to take a 5-3 lead.
Determined to stay in the game, Comstock Park loaded the bases with one out down in the sixth on another Laker fielding error and a pair of walks by Flynn. Vaughan entered the game for a pair of strikeouts to neutralize the threat. Flynn ended the night with two surrendered hits and five strikeouts.
Three creative insurance runs made the difference in the bottom of the sixth. Goldberg kicked things off, turning a fielding error into a double. Vaughan then drew a walk with Kieft taking over running duties, once again stealing second at the first chance she got.
Goldberg dashed home from third to score on a wild pitch before Poole lofted a sacrifice RBI to bring Kieft home. Megan Knollinger took over on the basepath for Poole, finding her way home on a missile into the outfield fence by Mumby.
Three quick strikeouts in the top of the seventh by Vaughan sealed the deal, preserving the Lakers’ perfect conference record.
“One thing we have liked with our demeanor is that when we do get behind, which isn’t a lot, there has been no sign of panic,” Core said. “Comstock Park hasn’t scored a run against us in over two years. So, they score one in the first inning and their confidence is rising. All the sudden, it is still 1-0 heading to the third and they are really feeling it. We had confidence in our hitting, pitching and fielding and the girls find a way to win.”
The pair of wins brings the Lakers’ record to 18-2 overall and 10-0 in conference play. They are scheduled to complete the Comstock Park series on the road Thursday.