MUNCY - Muncy pitcher Amanda Kustanbauter does not fear pressure. She embraces it.
That is a good thing too because she faced plenty of it in the seventh inning Thursday against Montgomery. The Red Raiders cut a four-run deficit in half and loaded the bases with two outs. The whole time, Kustanbauter remained calm.
Pressure often comes from being unprepared and all the work Kustanbauter put in last offseason has prepared her for just about any situation.
Muncy pitcher Amanda Kustanbauter throws to first base on a bunt attempt in the first inning Thursday vs. Montgomery. In back is Muncy third baseman Caitlin Dauberman. View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
It showed too as she induced a game-ending groundout to shortstop Jordan Jones as Muncy escaped with a 4-2 win. The Indians (7-1, 7-0 HAC-III) won their second big game over a solid league opponent in less than 24 hours and swept their nearby rival for the first time since 2009.
"I like it. I like the stress of it. I like working through it and coming out on top," Kustanbauter said. "I like the pressure and we definitely had a lot of pressure, but we worked through it."
"When you work as much as she does, you don't get rattled and that reflects down," Muncy coach Chris Ebner said. "There's a lot of athletes here that thrive on big-game competition."
That was crucial in the seventh inning when Montgomery (3-6, 2-4) made a furious rally after trailing 4-0 and having endured 13 straight scoreless innings against Kustanbauter. Dionna Satteson's lead-off single and three errors made it 4-1 and Reilly Gearhart's RBI grounder cut the deficit to 4-2.
Needing one more out, Kustanbauter induced Lexi McHenry into hitting a hard grounder to Jones. She initially bobbled the ball but recovered and made a snap throw to first and McHenry was called out on a controversial play that could have gone either way.
Kustanbauter, who has not allowed an earned run in two games against Montgomery, smiled and pumped her first. It was one part joy, one part relief.
"I knew my team had my back and that our defense could get us back," Kustanbauter said. "They have won at least one game both years I have been here so it's nice to win them both this time."
Montgomery showed vast improvement from the last time it played Muncy 11 days ago. The Raiders made four errors in that game, but played flawless defense Thursday. They want more than moral victories, but showed why they could be a dangerous team if they reach districts.
"We're playing better ball and what was neat was that in the seventh down 4-0 with three outs left in the game they fought back the way they did," Montgomery coach Craig Weaver said. "And we still should be playing. That girl (McHenry) was safe. Who knows? At 4-3 anything can happen."
Montgomery hit the ball better than in the previous game too, finishing with eight. The problem was that Kustanbauter repeatedly pitched out of jams, receiving a big lift from her defense. Montgomery loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Jones made a terrific throw home to retire the lead runner before Kustanbauter ended the threat with a strikeout.
Montgomery put two runners on with no outs in the third, but Jones and Dauberman took turns making consecutive impressive plays and stifled another threat. By game's end, Kustanbauter and the defense stranded 11 runners.
"We're hitting, but we're not stringing them together," Weaver said. "I was pleased that we're starting to sting the ball a little, but they made nice plays on balls that were hit hard."
Dauberman and Jones also were instrumental to putting Muncy ahead to stay. Dauberman hit a second-inning lead-off double and scored on Jones' RBI single two batters later. Jones stole second and scored on a wild pitch.
Two innings later, Muncy extended the lead to 4-0 as Liz Shank hit a sacrifice fly and Lexie Temple belted a RBI triple. Temple (2-for-3) and Nicole Harer (2-for-2) powered a strong bottom of the lineup that went 4-for-8 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Muncy hit well throughout the lineup and eight players combined for 10 hits. Each player either had a hit or produced a run.
"You can see it day by day. They're getting more excited about what they're doing and taking more pride in what they're doing," Ebner said. "They do everything that's asked of them. This was a total team effort. This is what we're trying to get."
Like Kustanbauter, Montgomery pitcher Emily Shnyder limited the damage and delivered a gutty performance. She also went 3-for-3 and was one of six Raiders to deliver at least one hit.
Muncy completed a difficult two-day sweep of Bloomsburg and Montgomery, opening that stretch with 13 straight scoreless innings. The Indians basically eliminated Montgomery from HAC-II title contention and have a two-game lead on Bloomsburg and one-game lead on Benton.
"That's a well-coached team and they come to compete. They never give up," Ebner said. "We came down the stretch teetering but we finished and this is two tough back-to-back games that we won and I'm really happy with the girls for doing that."
Montgomery000 002 0-2 8 0
Muncy200 200 x-4 10 4
Emily Shnyder and Reilly Gearhart. Amanda Kustanbauter and Crystal Good. W-Kustanbauter, (7-1). L-Shnyder, (3-6).
Top Montgomery hitters: Kaitlin Persing 1-2; Shnyder 3-4; Dionna Satteson 1-2, BB, R. Top Muncy hitters: Caitlin Dauberman 1-3, 2B, R; Kustanbauter 1-2, Jordan Jones 1-3, RBI, R, SB; Nicole Harer 2-2; Lexie Temple 3-3, 3B, RBI.
Records: Muncy 7-1, 7-0 HAC-III. Montgomery 3-6, 2-4.