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Coming Up Clutch: Bowser’s Grand Slam Helps Keystone Sink Moniteau, 11-7, in Pivotal Game for Both Teams

Friday, May 13, 2022 @ 10:05 PM

Posted by Mike Kilroy

khsWEST SUNBURY, Pa. — Natalie Bowser has learned to be patient. 

And to temper some crazy expectations. 

It was a difficult lesson to master.

Last year, Bowser put up unreal numbers on the softball field for Keystone, statistics no mere mortal could possibly duplicate. 

It took Bowser some time to come to grips with that. 

“I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m not going to be able to hit a home run every time I’m up,” said Bowser, covered in dirt and grinning after a hard-fought 11-7 win over Moniteau on Friday afternoon. “People know who I am now, and they know what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work — I’ve been getting a lot a lot of walks this season. A lot. And, I’ve just been trying to get base hits and not worry about the home runs.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

Bowser began listening to her own advice a few weeks ago. She made it pay off for her and Keystone in a big way on Friday afternoon at Moniteau.

Bowser took a pitch from Emma Covert that painted the outside corner and hit a line drive over the right-field fence for a grand slam in the top of the seventh inning to help the Panthers to a pivotal win over the Warriors.

“All game I was kind of early on pitches,” Bowser said. “So, I was like, ‘Be patient.’ I took a deep breath and was like, ‘If you get that pitch on the outside, drive it to the opposite field.’”

She got that pitch and did just what she told herself to do. The only question was whether or not the rocket off her bat had the height necessary to clear the fence. 

It did. But with not much to spare. 

“I was like, ‘Hey, it’s OK if it doesn’t go out. It’s still a hit,’” Bowser said. “But, then it carried and I was like, ‘that’s how I do it.’”

Bowser’s blast, her seventh of the season after slugging 14 in her mammoth 2021 campaign, was the exclamation point on a back-and-forth game. 

Bowser and Moniteau pitcher Haylee Grace were locked in a pitcher’s duel for the first three innings.

The fourth inning, though, was wild.

(Keystone softball coach John Stiglitz is all smiles as he congratulates his players after a key 11-7 win over Moniteau Friday afternoon)

Keystone (8-5) put up four runs in the top of the inning to break the stalemate. The rally was kicked off by a ringing double by Leah Exley, followed by a series of errors and a bases-loaded walk by Karley Callander.

Moniteau (5-7) answered in a big way, however, in the bottom of the frame with six runs of its own.

The rally began with a two-run homer by Emily Staab.

“That was the first of her career,” said Moniteau softball coach Bob Rottman. “She’s only a sophomore and she has a lot of potential. She’s a good athlete and she has a bright future.”

Megan Wise walked with the bases loaded to make it 4-3, and then the Warriors tied it on a single by Grace Thurner to chase Bowser.

Moniteau added two more runs with Exley in the circle before she stopped the bleeding with a strikeout.

It was now Keystone’s turn to rally. The Panthers knotted the game at 6-6 with single runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings but could have had more if not for a strong throw to the plate by Wise to cut down Jerzey Bell at home on a potential sacrifice fly.

Moniteau regained the lead again in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Thurner that scored Emma Covert.

That set up Keystone’s five-run seventh, which culminated with the grand slam by Bowser.

“We came through when we had to,” said Keystone coach John Stiglitz. “We left the bases loaded two times earlier. That’s what good players like Natalie do. They come through in the clutch, and she did so.”

Exley got the win, striking out three and walking none in 3 2/3 innings. She was charged with only one unearned run on three hits.

Covert got the loss in relief of Grace, who gave up four runs — only one earned — in 4 1/3 innings.

Injuries have been a problem for Moniteau all season.

“It’s been a weird year,” Rottman said. “Emma (Covert) had a hip problem early in the year. Megan Wise was out for a week. Destiny Travis was out and now she’s out again. Grace Thurner is just getting back this past week after having shoulder surgery in the fall. She’s just getting back in the groove of things. Mariska Shunk took a line drive off the hip early in the year, and it took a lot to get her going. I mean, that was the hardest I’ve ever seen a girl get hit by a line drive. She’s just getting back to full strength now.”

Rottman, who is also the football coach at Moniteau, is no stranger to dealing with injuries. He never thought he’d have to contend with so many during the softball season.

“In a lot of ways it’s worse than football,” he said. “It’s been a weird season.”

He’s hoping to keep it alive next week.

Moniteau needs to win two out of its last three games to make the playoffs.

“This (loss) makes it more difficult for us,” Rottman said. “We have back-to-back next week with a game on Monday and a doubleheader on Tuesday, so that’s not the best scenario to be in, especially when you need to win two.”

Keystone is in good shape after this win and is hoping to stay on a roll down the stretch and into the postseason.

“This is a very good first step,” Stiglitz said. “We’re excited. I said to the girls, ‘Are we back on track?’ And, they said ‘yes.’”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

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