Usually when it lingers on so, the game seeming to have a will of its own – and that will is: to not finish – only a handful of diehards remain in the park, the rest having given up and trudged slowly home. For example, when the Mets and Giants engaged in their famous 23-inning marathon of 1964, they say one could have taken down the individual names of the smattering of masochists still in the seats at the end, so few were they.

Anyway, history did not repeat itself Tuesday at North, because by the time the Lady Cougars had scratched their way to a 2-1 12-inning victory over East, the crowd had mysteriously multiplied, thanks to an influx of fans and players from the adjacent baseball game, which had been completed long before the softball dance contest would punch its last ticket of a wearying evening.

On a night when the teams combined for 23 LOB, eight errors, and only 16 hits in 92 official at-bats, North nudged ahead for a crucial victory when senior Hope Rodriguez singled up the middle to score Annabel Segoviano with the winning tally. The final sequence gave the club an 8-2 mark in District 31-6A and kept it in contention for a title with 8-1 Vela and 7-2 Weslaco. And it also was a boon to the hopes of the Lady Bobcats of EHS, ironically, who climbed into a tie for fourth at 4-5 after beating Econ 15-3 Tuesday. Funny how that happens.

Gaining the pitching win after an arduous 140-pitch outing, senior Nat Rodriguez – who was sick Tuesday but just kept on firing and being fired up – praised her teammates in the postgame huddle.

“Thank you for not giving up tonight,” she said, smiling at a bunch of super-tired girls. “You were always telling each other, OK, get the next one, and it means a lot.”

Coach Richard Tressler, who went from buoyant to frustrated and caustic to comforting and everything else during the affair, told his girls that his hopes for them will always be the same.

“I can’t change who I am, and my expectations are always high, and you know that,” said the venerable manager, who was thankful for the dogged work of Rodriguez and tremendous defense behind her in the 12-inning slog. “You just had to focus and not let the emotion of the moment get to you.”

Hope Rodriguez, who experienced a difficult night at the plate for the first time in, well, ever, was 0 for 5 before coming through in the clutch.

“Maybe we didn’t take it seriously at first, I don’t know,” pondered the slugging catcher. “Maybe we weren’t as prepared. I know we have a lot of young girls this year who are not experienced yet. Bottom line, as for me, I just kept telling myself I was going to come through: I said, hey, I’m human, I am allowed to have a bad game every so often.”

Thusly, one of the longest tilts in city annals ended with North on top, showing the resilience of the team and its coaches. The key was probably defense, as right fielder Mara Guerra turned in two fine catches and freshman third baseman Kayley O’Bryan contributed seven putouts. Twice, shortstop Jessica Diaz ranged far to her right to snare bloopers off the bats of East, and at the dish, sophomore first baseman Patty Davila knocked three hits to go with three from the hard-hitting second sacker Segoviano.

Each team managed a run in the sixth, North tying it at 1-1 when Davila led off with a slicing triple down the right-field line and came home on an O‘Bryan groundout.

After two sharp plays afield from Segoviano in the top of the seventh, the foes settled into a briskly played five extra innings. North got two on in the eighth to no avail but Rodriguez retired 15 of 17 batters after the seventh. She seemed to get stronger as the night wore on and when her team was batting she led the cheers and chants, with Diaz banging the drums, Davila dancing energetically, and Hope Rodriguez standing on a chair, exhorting her teammates onward.

It looked like daylight in the 11th but the Lady Coogs stranded two runners. Blast!

By then, the baseball boys were leading their own brand of chatter from outside the fence, all palo and pega. Their pleas were answered when Segoviano singled and Nat Rod sacrificed, leading to Hope’s bingle to thankfully clinch the grueling W.

After the game there was some indication that the team’s traditional aftermath sprint session from left-field line to center and back would be a casualty. And so it was, as after such a truly taxing contest, everyone was just ready to. just. go. home. Happily, on all counts.