Through four and a half innings of Tuesday's Section 1-AAAA softball game between Connellsville and visiting Norwin, the Falcons, the top-ranked team in Class AAAA according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, were deadlocked in a tie with the Knights, a team with a losing record.
That's when Connellsville manager Max Bukovac took a knee in front of the Falcons' dugout and made it known that he wasn't pleased with the team's performance.
And Bukovac's message was received loud and clear, as Connellsville responded with a six-run outburst in the bottom of the fifth on its way to an 8-2 win.
"Sometimes, we need that," Bukovac said of his message. "It seemed like we were sleepwalking on defense and offense, and sometimes, they need a little push in the right direction."
The job of getting Connellsville (8-1, 3-0) started on a positive note in the fifth inning fell to pinch-hitter Kasey Osler, who promptly delivered a single. Courtney Ritenour followed with an RBI triple that allowed Connellsville to reclaim the lead it had lost after surrendering two unearned runs in the top of the inning.
Ritenour was later thrown out at the plate, and with two outs, Norwin had a chance to get out of the inning with minimal damage.
But a botched attempt on a force play at second base led to Connellsville's big inning.
"If we get that out, they don't score that many runs," Norwin coach Marc Boban said, noting that pitcher Courtni Morton kept the Knights (3-5, 0-2) in the game. "That's the story of our season. When we make errors, we lose. When we play good defense, we win. But we didn't play good defense."
Instead of being down by a run headed to the sixth, Norwin found itself still on the field with two Falcons on base, and that's when Connellsville's offense kicked it into gear.
Alena Dragovich drove in two with a triple before Ashleigh Peck, Jennifer Stefano and Allyson Panzella ripped three consecutive doubles to complete the six-run inning and put the game out of reach.
Stefano and Dragovich each had RBI singles earlier in the game.
"We have the capability of doing that all the time," Bukovac said. "We have some good hitters. It's just a matter of them building confidence and hitting the right pitches."
Of course, getting a little wake-up call from the coach certainly didn't hurt.
"Whatever it was, it seemed to work," Bukovac said. "I told them to take that one inning and take it to the next game and just forget about the other six innings."
Connellsville committed four errors, but pitcher Erica Bartholow was strong throughout. Despite pitching in a light rain, Bartholow managed to toss a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts.
"Erica pitched well in these conditions," Bukovac said.
Connellsville returns to action Thursday at Albert Gallatin.