The sign of a team that is full of confidence is one that can have a lead disappear and then go out and reclaim what they believe is rightfully theirs.
On Wednesday, May 10 at West Holmes High School, the Lady Knights proved just how confident they were when they watched a 6-2 lead vanish after the ferocious bats of Indian Creek roared to life, then responded by posting a three-spot in their final at bat to claim a 9-6 win that gave West Holmes a sectional crown.
West Holmes head coach Jaime Chenevey expected a bit of a slugfest between two teams that are young, hungry and talented.
“We knew they were similar to us and that this was going to be a battle,” Chenevey said. “This was a game of momentum and rolls. We got it right off the bat, and we felt really good about what we were doing, and then they got it and felt good about what they were doing.”
“I’m proud of the girls,” Indian Creek head coach Angie Penner said. “We never gave up. We never quit, but in the end mistakes hurt us today, and as a result we were constantly battling from behind. That made it tough, but give credit to them. They also came back and did what they were supposed to do.”
Maddie Woods continued her onslaught on opposing pitching, racking another home run that spotted the Lady Knights to a 5-1 lead through two innings. Indian Creek (14-8) crept within 5-2 in the third inning off of West Holmes starter Olivia Ferguson, but West Holmes (16-8) came in geared to build its lead.
West Holmes loaded the bases with nobody out, but two strikeouts made it appear as though they would get out of the inning without adding any runs. Becca Vales then launched a shot down the right-field line that landed a mere couple of inches foul and then struck out but reached when the third strike eluded the catcher.
Indian Creek kept hammering away and got two runs in the fourth, but it would have been worse had not left-field senior Samantha Rogers made a sensational leaping catch of a ball hit down the line that helped limit the damage.
The Lady Knights let another golden opportunity slip through their fingers in the bottom of the inning, and Maddie Woods came on in relief of Ferguson and allowed a run that got Indian Creek within one run at 6-5. But with the bases loaded, a floater up the middle was pounded in by second baseman Callie Cline, who barely nipped the oncoming base runner for a force at second, which ended that threat.
West Holmes went quickly, and Indian Creek came out swinging in the sixth, loading the bases with no outs. On came Morganne Balder in relief, and the savvy righty mixed up her pitches and got out of the jam by allowing just a lone run that tied the game.
That was when West Holmes had to show composure and confidence, and it did just that, led by Rogers, who slapped a single in the hole at short with one out in what turned into a huge at bat.
Woods hammered a single that moved Rogers to third, and she scampered home with a great slide at the plate on Cline’s sacrifice fly to center for a 7-6 lead. Natalie Martin’s sharp grounder to second was mishandled, allowing Woods to score, and Jazz Knapp then lofted a long fly to right that hit on the line, the freshman hustling her way around to third with an RBI triple.
“She’s one of those kids who is gritty and not afraid of a challenge,” Chenevey said of Rogers stepping up in a big way in the sixth inning to ignite the rally. “Give me the kid who wants to be in that pressure situation.”
“I wanted that at bat, and I was going to do whatever I had to do to get on for my teammates and start something,” Rogers said. “Nothing was going through my head other than that I was going to get on base and my teammates were going to push me around.”
The Lady Knights had been challenged in every way and had responded like a team that believes in itself.
All that was left was for Balder to slam the door. She did so quickly, finally giving West Holmes an easy defensive inning that sent her team to a sectional crown.
“They were up on the plate and being aggressive, so I wanted to keep them off-balance,” Balder said. “I mixed my pitches up and just went out to do the job. I really wasn’t nervous. I was hoping for the win, and we got it, and now it’s time to go out and get more.”
Chenevey said that without a dominant pitcher, the Lady Knights may fall back on the pitcher-by-committee method. She noted that each pitcher did some nice things.
Chenevey also said it could have been a game of regrets had they not won because they squandered some very good scoring chances in the middle innings that could have created some breathing room.
“We got out, and then we got complacent,” Chenevey said. “We talked about getting that killer instinct. If we had that, it definitely would have made life a lot easier.”
But seeing her team respond to adversity and rise to the challenge would be enough for Chenevey on this night as they advanced to the one-game district final to face a rugged River View team that defeated New Philadelphia 16-4.
For the Lady Knights, Knapp went a perfect 3-of-3 with two RBIs, and Woods homered, was 2-of-3 and drove in three runs.