PANAMA CITY — The junior college softball team that opened its season 33-1 may have made its first appearance at Joe Tom King Field on Monday afternoon.
It certainly wasn’t the ballclub that had lost nine of its last 14 games that somehow found the resilience to upset the No. 1 team in the country in Chipola.
The fact that the surprising upset 2-1 win came with a walk-off two-run single by freshman Amanda Dermody with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning also pointed out that the Lady Commodores might have been bolstered by something sorely lacking most of this month.
A shared heartbeat.
The victory also kept Gulf Coast in the running to host the Panhandle Conference runner-up tournament on Saturday and Sunday.
Prior to the comeback, that seemed to be solely the property of Pensacola, where Gulf Coast will end its conference schedule on Wednesday afternoon.
When Tallahassee upset Northwest Florida earlier on Monday, it eliminated any possibility of a three-way tie for second place between Gulf Coast, Pensacola and Northwest. The Lady Commodores and Lady Pirates each take a 10-9 conference record into their game. Northwest ended 9-11.
The winner hosts the mini-tournament starting 1 p.m. on Saturday and featuring the second-, third- and fourth-place teams in the conference. The host also gets a bye into the best two-of-three series that determines a state tournament berth.
Chipola, now 44-1, long ago clinched first place and established its state credentials. The Lady Indians appeared en route to their fifth consecutive win over Gulf Coast this season, now 39-10 overall, when they broke a scoreless tie on Alexis Grampp’s opposite-field RBI single in the top of the sixth off Lady Commodores reliever Kristina Manthei.
Gulf Coast starter Amie Hutchison had matched Chipola all-American Krystal Goodman by allowing only one hit through five innings.
"We thought (Chipola) had seen her the least, and she keeps it lower in the zone," Gulf Coast coach Beth Wade said of Hutchison. "Chandler (Sparkman) gets it higher in the zone and the wind was blowing pretty hard."
Hutchison recorded 10 ground-ball outs through four innings, yielding only Grampp’s double high off the center-field fence in the fourth.
Meanwhile, Goodman surrendered just Kaylee Raines’ leadoff opposite-field single in the fourth, and Raines was stranded at second base.
Grampp reached third base in the fourth for the Lady Indians, the only baserunner to make that claim until the sixth. That’s when Amy Woodham led off with a single through the hole and Bobbie Morris reached on an infield hit.
Following a double steal that put runners on second and third it appeared that Gulf Coast might escape as Manthei relieved and Candela Figueroa lined into a double play. Grampp’s key hit ensued.
Chipola threatened to expand the lead in the seventh when Gulf Coast center fielder Sam Sisco appeared to battle a tough sun field. Sisco never tracked pinch-hitter Brooke Farrow’s fly ball that fell for a double, but courtesy runner Jadia Jones was erased trying to steal third.
That became notable when Ally Clegg lined to center and Sisco got a late jump on the ball and it fell for a clean single. Manthei was able to avoid further damage, however.
Gulf Coast’s winning rally was fueled by the lone wild streak of the game. Goodman walked Kristina Warford to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but Warford was ruled out for interfering with Chipola second baseman Melanie Sheldon on Sparkman’s roller.
Jamilah Johnson ran for Sparkman and moved up when Hutchison lined to second and Sheldon threw the ball into the Chipola dugout trying to double up Johnson.
Payton Burton then worked a full-count walk to keep Gulf Coast relevant, and Carson Hussey was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Otherwise, Gulf Coast had only two baserunners through six innings.
Dermody, the No. 8 hitter, was next in the order.
"She’s a freshman, but has quick hands," Wade said. "I just said be ready hard and inside and get your barrel on it."
Dermody lined a single to right field, and Johnson and Courtney Schweinsberg, who entered to run for Burton, scored easily.
The breakthrough triumph might quickly be put into the past if the Lady Commodores can’t come through in Pensacola at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The last time the teams met the Lady Pirates swept a doubleheader, and at Joe Tom King.
"I think they’d love to play at home," Wade said. "We needed to stop getting in our heads and play ball. It was like we saw early in the year."
Goodman allowed just the two singles and struck out eight. Grampp was the only player with two hits.
Chipola;000 001 0 —; 1 6 2
Gulf Coast;000 000 2 —; 2 2 1
Two outs when winning run scored.
Goodman (L) and Figueroa; Hutchison, Manthei (W) 6 and Burton.
LOB: Chipola 3, Gulf Coast 5. E: Morris, Sheldon, Warford. DP: Gulf Coast 4-6. S: Woll, Lindsay. 2B: Grampp, Farrow. SB: Morris, Woodham, Grampp, Clegg. CS: Clegg (by Burton), Jones (by Burton). WP: Goodman. HBP: by Goodman (Hussey).