AURORA — With her team up a bunch, Emily Pratt gave up a couple of rockets to stall the inevitable.
At that point, the talented teenager received an unexpected visit from first-year head coach Brittany Lightel.
“She said, ‘I don’t want any more,’” Pratt said. “‘That’s it. We need to stop now.’”
Let’s just say the senior pitcher was more than happy to oblige.
Thanks to Pratt’s strong effort, the Tallmadge softball team took a crucial first step toward another Suburban League American Conference championship by routing host Aurora 9-2 Wednesday.
Pratt, who finished 15-3 last year, struck out 14 batters and walked none while allowing five hits in the complete-game gem.
What made the performance even more impressive was it took place against a team that shared the conference title last spring. Tallmadge, Aurora and Highland each got a piece of the championship in 2018.
Pardon Pratt for being a little selfish.
The standout hurler has grown quite weary of being generous toward her opponents.
“We were much more prepared for this game because we’re so sick of sharing the title,” Pratt said. “As my senior year has just begun, I would really love to win it outright this year.”
Pratt had very little trouble with the Greenmen’s vaunted lineup for much of the afternoon. In the seventh, the senior workhorse showed she was human.
Pratt gave up three straight extra base hits to Aurora’s meat of the order. As a result, the Greenmen, who were overmatched against Pratt’s array of pitches in the first five innings, scored two runs.
That’s when Lightel strolled out of the dugout. The coach’s conversation with Pratt was short and sweet.
Why not? Lightel, who was once the Blue Devils’ ace pitcher earlier in the decade, knows she has a rare Hope Diamond who can throw darts at the bullseye on a regular basis.
Lightel offered a few words of encouragement and then it was a matter of just letting her senior leader do her thing.
“Emily is just a freaking athlete,” Lightel said. “She would go forever. She does get tired. I just have to give her a pep talk. She’ll dig deep and get it done. I know she’ll get it done.”
Pratt, who improved to 3-2, certainly appreciated her coach’s words of wisdom. At the same time, though, she has been through this process over and over again.
As her glittering track record has proven, Pratt knows how to finish. She retired the last five batters in order to close the game.
“She [Lightel] usually just tells us you can’t be too comfortable,” Pratt said. “You just need to mow them down. We had a big lead. Those two runs didn’t matter. We were up by a lot.
“We didn’t want it to be a 9-8 game. We were winning by so much. We needed to stop right then.”
Pratt, who also bats in the cleanup spot, helped her cause with her potent bat.
She finished with two hits, including a double, two RBIs and a run scored.
Ironically enough, Tallmadge’s offense, despite having baserunners lurk everywhere, was held scoreless in the first three innings.
However, the Blue Devils found their stroke and launched an onslaught in the final three innings.
The fifth ended all hopes for Aurora.
Tallmadge, which finished with 17 hits, scored six in the frame to take a commanding 7-0 lead.
“It was definitely a pitcher’s duel for the first couple [innings],” Pratt said. “Once we started to get comfortable, we got on it really well.
“I just think we needed to get on with our hitting. It usually takes us a couple innings, so we really need to work on that.”
The Blue Devils have outscored the Greenmen 19-2 in the last two games. Tallmadge clinched a share of the title by defeating Aurora 10-0 last season.
Both of those contests took place on the Greenmen’s home field.
“We’re more ready to play them,” Pratt said. “Now we’re more ready to play everyone now. This is always our big game. We’re really ready to battle everyone now.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.