In the early 1970s, The Osmond Brothers belted out a tune with the line “one bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.”
Apparently the Osmonds never had a half-inning like the Hiland Lady Hawks had to endure in their 15-5 loss to the Garaway Lady Pirates in Sugarcreek on Thursday, April 4.
Leading 4-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Lady P’s posted an 11-spot in the inning that paved the way for a 15-5 win in six innings.
Hiland came out with a great amount of energy and purpose and looked fantastic early on.
“There are a few games you circle each year,” Hiland head coach Jason Hazen said. “Opening day, your tournament games and then the Garaway games. We talked a lot about this game, and it meant a lot to our girls.”
Garaway head coach Rick Johnson said he has tried to instill the idea that no matter who his team is facing, they need to bring a fierce and winning attitude to the field every night. He said getting challenges like this from improving teams that they are supposed to beat will make them better.
“We talk every day about working like champions, practicing like champions and playing like champions,” Johnson said. “We have high expectations, and this team plays with a lot of confidence, and the players trust each other to get the job done. We had some plays tonight where balls caromed off of one player and someone else was there to make a play. We turned double plays and did the things we needed to do to win a game.”
For half the game the Lady Hawks were putting together an effort that looked like a major upset in the brewing.
With Nikki Keim keeping the daunting Lady Pirates’ bats in check with a series of off-speed stuff that Garaway couldn’t seem to time up, Hiland built a 4-2 advantage by taking an early lead and then produced a three-spot in the top of the fourth inning.
Keim got Hiland on the board in the first by singling, leading off the game. She advanced to third on Hannah Gerber and scored on Brynley McVicker’s RBI ground out. Garaway got right back to even in the bottom of the inning when Chelsi Rothacher doubled and rode home on Cassy Donaldson’s sacrifice fly. Lady Pirate Mya Gee drew a walk to start the second and scored on Kori Gutheridge’s double for a 2-1 Garaway lead.
Neither team could produce a run as Keim battled Gutheridge pitch for pitch, until the top of the fourth when the Lady Hawks struck for three. With two outs and no one on base, an error opened the door for Hiland. Keim smacked a double, and after another Garaway error, Gerber laced a two-run double for the 4-2 Hiland lead.
Then came the fateful bottom of the fourth, an inning where Garaway could do no wrong and Hiland could do no right. The biggest culprit was once again Hiland’s inability to make some routine plays in the field, a situation that has haunted Jason Hazen’s team all season.
“One half of an inning,” Hazen said. “We’re up 4-2, and then they score 11 runs on three errors. I think it is a situation in which I believe in them, but they need to believe in themselves more to make plays and have confidence in themselves. It will come around eventually. I’m sure of it, but today, errors killed us again.”
Sarah Billman reached on an error to start the inning, and Mya Gee reached when Hiland failed to get her at first on a sacrifice bunt. Three straight singles from Emma Gee, Meghan Petitte and Zoe Johnson gave Garaway a 6-4 lead, but it was not done yet. With two outs Jocelyn Troyer doubled home Johnson. Donaldson reached on an error, and Billman spanked a single. Singles from Mya Gee and Emma Gee pushed the lead to 10-4. Gutheridge then put a big, old exclamation point on the inning by hitting a colossal home run through the teeth of a howling wind in her face that made it 13-4.
While the gloves let down the Lady Hawks, it also can be said that the bats of the Lady Pirates had much to do with the uprising too.
“It seems as though all season long this team has picked out an inning and gone to town,” Johnson said. “Today we went through 14 batters and scored a lot of runs, and we did it up and down the batting order where our six through nine batters in the order were producing, and that is big.”
The Lady Hawks were able to extend the game in the fifth when Keim turned in a terrific inning, going right through the heart of the Garaway line-up, and Hiland got a run back in the sixth before Garaway was finally able to put the 10-run mercy rule into effect.
Billman worked a walk to begin the sixth inning, and Mya gee doubled. Emma Gee singled to left, and Gutheridge’s ground out produced the game-ending run.
Hazen said Keim performed admirably against a daunting Lady Pirates’ offensive attack.
“Where Nikki is this season compared to last year in terms of mound presence is a lot,” Hazen said of Keim. “She has worked incredibly hard this offseason, and it has paid off.”
Gutheridge picked up her first win of the season after a week off, giving up eight hits over six innings, striking out two and walking a pair. Seven of Garaway’s 15 runs were earned on the night.
Keim and Gerber each recorded two hits for Hiland, Keim scoring twice and Gerber driving in a pair. Brittany Troyer scored two runs.
Garaway was led by Mya Gee, who mashed out three hits including a double. She drove in a run and scored four times. Emma Gee also added three hits with two runs and three RBI while Gutheridge helped herself by driving in five runs, three courtesy of the home run. Petitte added a pair of hits while Bllman scored three times.