When it comes to tournament softball, the only thing that matters is what takes place between the lines. Team can have the higher seed, home-field advantage, experience and be the better team, but on any given night, all of that means nothing if a team doesn’t deliver.
On Tuesday, May 8 at West Holmes High School, the Lady Knights felt what it is like to experience just that. Despite being a much higher seed and expected to win, John Glenn’s youthful crew came out, got hot early and rode that wave of confidence to a 9-5 victory that stunned a great number of people.
West Holmes head coach Jaime Chenevey couldn’t disguise her displeasure and disappointment with the way her team had played in a game in which they were a heavy favorite to win.
“You can’t go out and give teams ballgames, and we certainly did that today. That’s all there is to it,” Chenevey said. “We gave that game away. Give them credit. They came out ready to play the game, and we certainly did not come out ready to play.”
The game started on an ominous note for the home team when the Little Muskies posted a four-run first inning. It started with a walk from starting pitcher Olivia Ferguson, and two bunt singles plated the first run. Kaitlyn Zumbro then laced a two-run single to center, and Makinzey Hill shot one through to left for a two-out RBI single. Just like that, John Glenn had a massive boost of confidence. Sporting a team of five freshmen in its starting lineup, that was exactly what they needed.
“That was huge. I was tickled we were the visitors. We were able to jump on them early, and we could relax and play,” said Randy Larrick, John Glenn head coach. “We are very young, and it just depends on which team shows up on any given night. Tonight was a night that we played with a lot of confidence. We took advantage of a few of their mistakes and played well. I am very proud of these kids.”
The underdog visitor’s role seemed to suit the Little Muskies well. Larrick said they have hosted as a higher seed the past two tournament seasons and have come away with a loss, so maybe it was good for his young team to hit the road and play the underdog.
“I know they have got to be heartbroken,” Larrick said of the Lady Knights. “I am thrilled that we showed up and played the way we are capable of playing.”
West Holmes began chipping away at the John Glenn lead and got one back in the first when Maddie Woods led off with a rousing triple and scored on Callie Cline’s single. Natalie Martin followed with a hit, but the Lady Knights would strand two and trailed 4-1.
Both teams went quickly in the second, and Ferguson got through the third unscathed, but the Lady Knights got closer in the bottom of the inning.
With one out Cline crushed a double, and one out later Jazz Knapp unloaded a bomb to left field that went for a two-run home run. The lead was down to 4-3.
Ferguson got in all kinds of trouble in the fourth, where with one out she allowed a pair of singles and an error to make it 5-3. She would get out of further trouble with a ground out to short.
As West Holmes continued to play catch-up, Chenevey said that single run was a big one.
“We give them a run on an error, and we talked a lot about giving away games,” Chenevey said. “That was a huge run. We’ve got to stop giving things to people and start fighting for ourselves, and until that happens, it makes it really hard to work from behind and be pressured the entire time.”
Again, West Holmes would claw back to within a single run in the bottom of the fourth when Jessica Yabroff reached on an error and moved up on Liberty Arnold’s bunt single. After Jessie Keen forced Yabroff at third for the first out, the runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Woods delivered a long sacrifice fly to left to make it 5-4. Ferguson stranded a runner on second in the top of the fifth, and West Holmes left two on board in the bottom.
Then came a catastrophic sixth inning that would spell the end for the Lady Knights, and they gift-wrapped it nicely for the Little Muskies.
With one out Avery Adams’ liner to third went into and out of the glove of Knapp for an error. Paige German singled, and Ashlyn Yarger’s infield chopper saw Woods field the ball and take a glance to third, which proved costly because Yarger beat her throw to first for a fielder’s choice. Woods mishandled a routine grounder to short to allow a run and make it 6-4. Ferguson then walked in a run and with two outs had Madison Walker down in the count 0-2, but her offering was too good, and Walker drove it to the wall in right center for a two-run double. Morganne Balder came on in relief to stem the tide, but the damage had been done.
Now down to two at-bats to carve into the 9-4 deficit, West Holmes had to come up big to stay alive.
Arnold started the sixth with a single, but she was doubled off at first when Keen lined out the first base. Woods then had a lengthy at-bat and hammered a ball a mile over the wall in left, which went just inches foul before flying out to deep left.
Balder worked around a double in the seventh, and now the Lady Knights needed a last-inning rally of five runs to stay in it.
Morgan Allen started with a single to center, and after Cline flew out to center, Martin drew a walk. Knapp then bashed a single to deep center to make it 9-5, and West Holmes had something cooking in hopes of getting around to the top of the order to allow Woods a chance to win it in dramatic fashion.
That opportunity never came. Lexi Martin drilled a liner that was caught at short, and with two outs Balder hit a liner down the right-field line that landed 3 inches foul. She grounded the next pitch to second, and after a force play, John Glenn had pulled off the upset.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we are the better team, but we did not play the better game, and when it comes to tournament time, it doesn’t matter if you’re the better team or not, you have to play the game.”