It was the kind of line drive that might have cost a cat one of its lives.
Unless it had Nicole Van Gennep's reflexes.
The Lincoln-Way East pitcher shook her head incredulously a couple of times as she joined celebrating teammates after her spectacular game-ending play Wednesday gave the Griffins (13-5, 3-3) a 4-3 victory over Lockport and new life in the SouthWest Suburban Blue race.
Van Gennep was trying to close out the victory in the bottom of the ninth with Halle Hollatz (walk) on first base and one out when Lockport's Sara Koniewicz got every bit of a fastball and sent it rocketing toward the circle.
In a flash, Van Gennep got her glove up and speared the ball. Hollatz had no chance to get back as she whirled and fired a strike to first baseman Ashley Hesse for the double play.
"I really didn't see it," a smiling Van Gennep said. "Then it was just kind of in my glove. That... was something."
It was the final in a series of dramatic moments that marked the final few innings.
Lockport (12-5, 4-2) trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, only to rally on a double by Haylie Arndt (2-for-4) and back-to-back singles by Alli Howard and Hollatz. Her back to the wall, Van Gennep then shut the door by retiring the next three batters.
In the bottom of the eighth, Lockport was threatening with two outs and Sarah DeMasi (double) on third when Arndt hit a low liner that veered to the ground and seemed ticketed for right field. East second baseman Nicole O'Donnell dove in the dirt and knocked it down, then after a scramble for the ball was able to make a lunging flip to Hesse for the out.
"I just saw it... I was diving for the catch, though, not for the short hops," O'Donnell said. "That was probably the scariest play of my life."
The game-winning run in the top of the ninth for East evolved from a leadoff single by Hesse. Pinch-runner Elise Jankowski was moved along on a bunt by Devon Morgan and a groundout, before Alana Selvaggio found a wide-open spot up the middle for an RBI single.
Gabby Voulgaris (2-for-4) put Lockport in front 1-0 with a first-inning home run, before East played small ball in the fourth and scored twice on an RBI squeeze bunt by O'Donnell, and a double steal in which Taylor Szostak scored.
East made it 3-1 in the sixth on an RBI single by Morgan, before Lockport parlayed an error into a run in the bottom of the sixth, and tied it in the seventh.
"That's good softball. Yeah, it was a good game," Lockport coach Marissa Chovanec said. "The kids were able to show us that they can come back down two and tie it up. We just needed to push across that last run."