For more than six innings of Tuesday's doubleheader against Shawnee Mission Northwest, the Lawrence High softball team played the part of the aggressor.
But with one mammoth swing in the top of the seventh inning of Game One, the Cougars took control.
Leading by three runs and sitting one strike away from victory, Lawrence High left fielder Jamie Morgison watched as a deep fly ball off the bat of Northwest leadoff hitter Rachel Zdeb tied the score and turned the tide. Northwest went on to win Game One, 4-3 in nine innings, and swept the doubleheader at Holcom Ballpark with a 12-1 victory in Game Two.
"I do not like the way we played tonight at all," LHS coach Reenie Stogsdill said. "And that's the first time I've felt that way all year."
Had LHS been able to record that final strike - or had the Lions been able to add to their lead earlier in the game - Stogsdill likely would have been singing a different tune.
"In that first game, we could've opened it up, and we didn't do it," Stogsdill said. "And then, with one pitch, boom, it's tied up."
Freshman Lauren Massey was masterful on the mound in the first game, giving up three hits through six innings and allowing just two Cougars to reach second base. But after retiring two of the first three batters in the top of the seventh, Massey slipped and allowed the game-tying, night-changing home run. To her credit, Massey struck out the final batter of the seventh and battled through two more innings before surrendering the winning run. As she digested her team's eighth straight loss, Massey said the home run was deflating.
"I wouldn't say we collapsed after that," she said. "But it sure didn't help us. Once I saw it go over the fence, I knew there was nothing I could do about it. At that point, all I could worry about was the next pitch, because if I dwelled on the home run, the next pitch would probably have gone over the fence, too."
LHS moved first baseman Kacie Welborn to second base in the eighth and catcher Kristen Bell to third in the ninth, but could not win or tie the game. The Lions (4-15) now are 2-8 in games decided by three runs or fewer, including an 0-5 mark in one-run games.
A bright spot for the Lions was the play of their defense. In the opener, LHS made tough plays look easy and seemed to play the field with a bit of a swagger, particularly sophomore third baseman Jamie Jerritt, who made several highlight-reel stabs at the hot corner.
"At third, they just come so fast I don't have time to think," Jerritt said. "Our defense is huge for us. And I think our offense can catch up to it. We've proven we can. We just have to do it."
Both the offense and defense were missing in the nightcap, as the Lions recorded just three hits and gave up 12 runs in the six-inning setback.
The Lions went three-up, three-down in four of the six innings in Game Two.
"The team that was here tonight was not the team we've seen all year," Stogsdill said. "This is not the way to go into regionals."
LHS has one game remaining - Thursday's completion of a suspended game at SM North - before the postseason begins next week.