Photos by Landon Troyer
Great teams will capitalize on every mistake the other team makes. That theory was proven to be true on Tuesday, May 15 when Garaway played Buckeye Trail for the third time this season.
The Pirates had handed the Warriors two of their three losses on the season. Game one was back in late March when the Pirates played perhaps their best overall game of the season. Garaway came out on top 6-0. Game two occurred one week prior to their tournament showdown, and in that game the Pirates squeaked out an 8-7 win, despite giving up five runs in an error-plagued third inning. This time around Garaway was unable to comeback from what turned out to be a disastrous first inning.
Games are often won or lost in the first inning. Looking back at this game, the Pirates were handed a great opportunity in their first at-bat. Zoe Johnson led off the game with a hard-hit grounder to shortstop Amber Colvin, who mishandled the ball and allowed Johnson to reach safely on the error.
Johnson quickly moved into scoring position when the first pitch to Kallie Regula went past the catcher. With Johnson standing on second base, Regula ripped a low sinking liner into left field. Alli McVicker made a great shoe-string catch to rob Regula of a hit.
Buckeye Trail’s starting pitcher, Hannah Smith, was able to pop up Maddie Steiner for the second out. Cassy Donaldson followed and hit a clutch single to right field to score Johnson. Donaldson continued to second base when the Warrior outfielder made a fielding error on the ball. Garaway was unable to take advantage of Buckeye Trail’s second mistake of the inning as Smith caught Chelsi Rothacher looking at strike three to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning it was time for the Pirates defense to show their first-inning jitters. Pirates starting pitcher Kori Gutheridge walked Brooke Colvin to start the bottom of the first. It would turn out to be the only walk issued by Gutheridge in the game, but it would be costly.
Jenni Carmichael came to the plate in an obvious sacrifice situation. Carmichael went after the first pitch and popped up the bunt. Colvin had taken off on the bunt attempt and was halfway to second before realizing the ball was in the air. All Garaway needed to do was catch the pop up and they had an easy double play. That’s when the Bermuda Triangle opened up in the middle of the field.
For those too young to know about the Bermuda Triangle, it’s a place where aircraft and ships were said to disappear. This Bermuda Triangle swallowed up some Pirates on Carmichael’s poor bunt. As three Pirates defenders converged on the pop up, all three looked to each other to catch it. The ball dropped cleanly for a single, but the mental error proved to be costly for the Pirates. Instead of a double play and momentum on the Pirates’ side, Buckeye Trail had runners on first and second base with no outs.
Colvin came to the plate looking for redemption from her costly error just minutes earlier, and she pushed a bunt in between first base and the pitcher. Then mental mistake number two happened for the Pirates.
Colvin’s bunt ended up being a single when again nobody made a play on the ball. The mental mistakes continued when several players simply watched the ball continue to roll rather than go after it. Brooke Colvin came around from second to score. Meanwhile the Pirates defense took too long to recover, and Carmichael rounded third base. Garaway threw home and caught Carmichael in a pickle but did not execute well during the back-and-forth exchange of throws. Carmichael ended up scoring when the ball was dropped during the run down.
Buckeye Trail had now scored two runs without the ball ever getting out of the infield. Hannah Smith hit a fly ball to center for the first out. Two pitches later Randi-Leigh Rippeth stunned the Pirates when she sent a pitch sailing down the left-field line for a two-run homer. It was close enough to the line that the call could have gone either way.
The mental mistakes and fielding error had cost Garaway four runs. “If we stay away from that first inning, it’s a different game,” Pirates head coach Dennis Koshmider said. “The ball wasn’t even leaving the infield until the home run. We just weren’t making the plays we needed to make.”
Down 4-1, Kassidy Reidenbach did her best to get her team back in the game. Reidenbach led off the second with a double into the left-center gap, but Reidenbach made it no further as Smith struck out the next three batters. Gutheridge set the Warriors down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the second, and both pitchers worked a perfect third inning. The score remained 4-1 Buckeye Trail.
Garaway finally got back on the board in the fourth, and again it was Reidenbach coming through. Reidenbach hit her third home run of the season, this one a shot over the left-field fence. The Pirates were now down 4-2. Buckeye Trail had a pair of hits in the bottom of the fourth; however, Gutheridge worked out of it to keep her team close.
Garaway continued to chip away at the lead in the fifth inning but squandered an opportunity to potentially tie the game.
Mya Gee led off with a single to left field. Johnson bunted and reached safely on a throwing error by the Warrior defense. The costly error moved Gee to third and Johnson to second base.
Regula hit a ground out to score Gee and bring Garaway to within a run, Johnson moving to third on the play. The Pirates missed an opportunity to utilize their patented squeeze play to tie the game. The call was made, but the sign was missed. One pitch later Steiner ripped a line shot to center field. Johnson took off from third on the liner and was nearly doubled up. Smith was able to get Donaldson on an infield pop up to end the inning, leaving the tying run 60 feet away.
“We had an opportunity to tie it up, but we had a mental mistake at third,” Koshmider said. “I should have reminded Zoe to freeze on a line drive. They have a strong combination with Brooke Colvin in center and Rippeth at the plate, but I would have liked to have seen that opportunity play out. It’s also a spark for the other team because they know we made a mistake.”
Despite all the mistakes her team was making, Gutheridge was still keeping Garaway in the game. She pitched another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. Chelsi Rothacher led off the sixth for Garaway with a walk. The Pirates were unable to get a bunt down, and Rothacher was eventually forced out at second base on a grounder. Emma Gee came in to run for Reidenbach at first. Once again the Pirates had a problem getting a bunt down as two pitches were fouled off by Sarah Billman, who was given the sign again even though she had two strikes.
This time Billman came through and advanced Gee over to second base. With the Pirates looking for a hit to tie the game, Gutheridge battled Smith with several fouls balls, but Smith eventually won the battle when she caught Gutheridge looking at a curveball on the outside part of the plate for out number three.
Smith doubled, and Rippeth singled to start the bottom of the six inning. The Pirates’ defense made a nice play when Donaldson fielded a sharp grounder at third. Donaldson looked the runner back and fired to first for the out. The next ground ball did not go as well though. Cassidy Dobbins hit a routine grounder to short. Both Buckeye Trail runners held on the play. The ball was mishandled once again, never leaving the infield. By the time the Garaway defense recovered, both runners crossed the plate, and the Warriors had seized control of the game with a 6-3 lead. Garaway went down in order in the seventh to end the season.
“Kori pitched a great game,” Koshmider said after the game. “If we just support her with good defense, we could have been the team moving on instead of Buckeye Trail.”
Buckeye Trail (22-3) went on to defeat Richmond Edison (20-9) in the East District Div. III championship. Garaway ended its season with a 15-9 record and will graduate two seniors: Kassidy Reidenbach and Madison Steiner.