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Panthers capture Six Rivers East title
Times photo: Mark Nesbitt Juda freshman Amber Ramos struck out 12 in the Panthers' 6-5 win over Barneveld Tuesday, sealing Juda's Six Rivers East Conference championship.
JUDA - Juda freshman CJ Dunwiddie asked her coach to move her down in the batting order before the Panthers' game Tuesday against Barneveld.

The shuffled lineup worked to perfection, and the Panthers played small ball at the most opportune times. Dunwiddie, who usually bats leadoff, hit in at No. 8, and went 4-for-4 and scored two runs, including the game-winner to beat Barneveld, 6-5. The eight inning win locked up Juda's first Six Rivers East Conference softball title since 1990.

The Panthers' win snaps the Eagles' run of five straight conference championships.

"I couldn't breathe," Dunwiddie said after her cousin, Lauren, bunted for a single in the eighth as she raced around, scored and was mobbed by teammates. "I was just so happy. It felt really good to beat Barneveld for once in something. I want to thank Trish Allen for helping me bat."

Juda improves to 12-8, 10-1 in Six Rivers East. Juda coach Bill Davis had no reservations about sending Dunwiddie from third.

"When I saw the ball thrown over the first baseman's head with CJ's speed, I knew she would score," Davis said. She came to me and wanted to be moved down in the order because she thinks she hits better. Give her kudos. She had a heck of a game."

Winning the Six Rivers East title Tuesday would not have been possible without sophomore Megan Trotter's game-tying RBI single to center in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

"It feels incredible," Davis said. "We came into this game and wanted to take care of business. We sure stepped up and did that."

Early on it looked as if nothing would go wrong for Juda. Juda sophomore Aly Pierce, who was 2-for-4, singled to right to lead off the first. Then Katlyn DeVoe, who went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, reached on an error. Juda senior Tara Allen (2-for-3) ripped an RBI single down the third-base line.

The Panthers used small ball to perfection by forcing the issue with four bunt hits. Davis had the Panthers bunt in 2 1/2-hour practices at the start of the season.

"It's nice to see that hard work is paying off," he said. "You are not going to bunt and get on every time. You are just hoping you can get on once in a while, and we did."

Juda freshman Amber Ramos pitched a complete game to earn the win. She gave up three earned runs on six hits. Ramos struck out 12 and walked three.

The Eagles scored three runs in the sixth without hitting the ball to the outfield and took a short-lived 5-4 lead. Ramos pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. She walked Brooke Arneson to lead off the sixth, then Brooke Allen laid down a sacrifice bunt. Mel Carmody cut the Panthers' lead to 4-3 by knocking in a run with a fielder's choice. Carleigh Runk singled to load the bases.

With one out, Keli McSherry hit a comebacker at Ramos, who threw home. Arneson beat the tag to tie the score at 4-4. With one out, Chelsey Watkins hit a bouncer to first that hit Caitlin Jordee. On a play that appeared to be runner's interference, the umpires conferred and ruled there wasn't interference since the first baseman was playing in front of the runner. Each runner was awarded one base and the Eagles took a 5-4 lead.

Ramos could have lost her composure, but she struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

"I just knew I could not let it get in my head," she said. "I had to just pitch. Just keep my composure."

Davis knows Ramos has been a workhorse as a freshman.

"She (Ramos) threw an incredible ballgame," Davis said. "She has had heart all year. She stepped up and pitched a big-time game. For a freshman, she has stepped up and showed a lot of maturity."