Sometimes in softball you have to take them where you get them.
For the West Holmes Lady Knights, who hosted Wooster in an Ohio Cardinal Conference showdown at West Holmes High School on Tuesday, April 9, that meant watching intently as Lexi Martin dashed for home on a wild pitch in the eighth inning to gain a 6-5 victory.
It marked another comeback win for West Holmes, this time in dramatic fashion for the 8-2 Lady Knights, who are undefeated at 5-0 in OCC play.
“You start worrying when teams start inching away from you, but the past two games we have proven that we can come back,” said West Holmes head coach Steve Frank, referring to his team’s prior game in which it rallied from a 7-2 deficit to record an 11-run sixth inning to defeat Waynedale. “We have found ways to grind it out, and we did again tonight.”
Wooster is now 2-8, but you’d never know it from the way the Generals played in this contest.
“We’re learning, and winning is a culture that we haven’t experienced a lot of lately,” first-year Wooster head coach Rich Siegenthaler said. “What I have asked from these girls from day one is that they give me 100 percent and all of the energy they can, and I’ll accept that.”
Macee Harpster led off the game with a walk, moved along on a single from Taryn Welty and came around to score on Emma Anderson’s single to give Wooster the early 1-0 lead.
West Holmes got that run right back in the bottom of the inning on an unearned run, and Wooster kept chipping away at starting pitcher Maddie Woods. A run in the second inning on a Kelci Kauffman double followed by an RBI single from Harpster gave Wooster the lead back, and the Generals tacked on two more in the third inning on a pair of West Holmes errors, a single from Mickaela Folkes and a two-run single from Aubrey Pagniano.
Meanwhile, Welty was shutting down the Lady Knights’ offense, something that changed in the bottom of the fourth when West Holmes took the lead.
After an error opened the inning, West Holmes got four straight singles from Lexi Martin, Kinsey Patterson, Jessie Keen and Woods, Keen racing home on a wild pitch to give West Holmes a 5-4 lead.
Neither team could muster a run through the fifth and sixth, meaning Wooster had to score in the final inning of regulation to stay alive. With two outs Pagniano lofted a soft fly into no-man’s land behind shortstop for a hit, and Kauffman then came through with a huge double to knot the game at 5-5. Moments later with Kauffman 60 feet away from giving the Generals a lead, Woods bore down and got Riley McCrew on strikes to end the inning.
A walk and an Avery Becker single would allow Wooster to threaten in the eighth, but an opportunity to take a lead was snuffed out when West Holmes freshman shortstop Avery Yoder made a sensational diving catch in shallow left field to end the inning.
In came the Lady Knights, who finally were able to put this one in the win column. After Steph Large lined out to short, Lexi Martin lashed a single to center that skipped by Becker and rolled to the wall, allowing Martin to race to second.
Patterson then laced a bullet single to left to move Martin to third, and with Jessie Keen at the plate, Welty threw a low fastball that skipped in front of the plate and eluded the catcher, rolling about 10 feet away. Martin never hesitated, darting for home and sliding under tag of Welty on a close play.
“Our kids know they have to be ready for something like that,” Frank said of Martin’s bolt to victory. “We actually talked about letting our hitters bring her in, but she got a great jump, and it was an automatic response.”
For Frank, seeing his bottom of the order produce a game-winner isn’t new, and the Lady Knights have proven they can hurt an opponent anywhere in the line-up.
“They’ve done that a couple of times, and we talk a lot about our approach at the plate and battling with two strikes,” Frank said.
For Wooster it was a stinging way to drop a game, but Siegenthaler said he liked what he saw on the mound from Welty and the way his team battled the front-runner in the OCC.
“Now we are competing, and they care, and it hurts to lose games like this,” Siegenthaler said. “I see the emotions in the dugout and the tears, and I hurt for them, but we are competing, and it’s been fun to watch us improve and learn how to compete. We are young with just two seniors, but we can’t be satisfied with competing. We are coming, and I am proud of them because they are hungry. Just because we are competing, it’s not OK to lose. Don’t just be happy because we are in the game. Keep working to get over the hump.”
The Generals actually out-hit the Lady Knights 12-10 with Kauffman collecting three hits and Pagniano and Becker both recording a pair of hits. Patterson led the Lady Knights with three hits while Martin had two, as did Woods.
Both hurlers went the distance. Welty allowed 10 hits and four earned runs, striking out four and walking just one. Woods picked up the win, tossing eight innings, allowing four earned runs, walking three and striking out four.