If one-inning redos were a thing in sports, the West Holmes Lady Knights might still be alive and well in the Div. II state tournament. However, that is not the case, and one horrifying inning in their district final game in Strasburg versus Carrollton spelled the end of the year in an 11-6 loss to a highly underrated Warriors team.
West Holmes struggled right out of the gate. The top of the first featured a pair of errors that led to a 2-0 Warriors lead. In addition to faulty fielding, the usually beastly Lady Knights bats were not exactly looking potent as Carrollton starter junior Shelbee Stidom cruised through the first two innings.
Then came the nightmare third inning for West Holmes, one that saw West Holmes coach Jaime Chenevey make three pitching changes that saw her go from starter Olivia Ferguson, to Morganne Balder, to Maddie Woods, and finally back to Ferguson. In the nine-run inning, Carrollton had six hits including a monster three-run home run from first baseman Brenna Campbell. A couple of walks, a hit batter and three errors highlighted what was a disastrous inning for the Lady Knights, who looked very unsure of themselves throughout the first three innings of defense and at the plate.
“We let it get away from us,” Chenevey said. “The first three innings we played a step behind. We were too nervous. We weren’t talking and didn’t know where we were going with the ball. It bit us, and it bit us hard.”
Finally Ferguson re-entered the game and got the final two outs to usher her team off the field with the Warriors having built a huge 11-0 lead. But just like their prior game in which the Lady Knights overcame an 8-0 deficit, there was not going to be any quit, especially with a regional berth on the line.
Senior Becca Vales led off the bottom of the third by whacking a pitch to the wall in center for a double. She would come around to score, but with runners on second and third and two outs, Natalie Martin’s long fly to center was caught with the defender’s back against the wall for the third out.
Ferguson would then go about shutting down Carrollton the rest of the way, doing her best to give her team a chance to win.
Things started looking up in the bottom of the fourth when Jazz Knapp walked, Brooke Workman singled and both came in on Morgan Allen’s double, making it 11-3. Maris Hoffee worked a walk in a pinch-hit role, and with two outs Callie Cline lined a shot to left field to make it 11-5.
Callie Cline with a rocket to left makes it 11-5 Carrollton as West Holmes fights back in fourth pic.twitter.com/YVQRJ0hQsf
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) May 18, 2017
Suddenly West Holmes had its confidence back and was playing with some swagger, but Stidom proved to be up to the challenge.
Ferguson sped through the Carrollton order in the fifth, and Knapp rapped a double to start the inning for West Holmes, but Stidom buckled down and slammed the door.
The sixth went one-two-three for Ferguson and the Lady Knights defense, and in the bottom of the inning Woods crushed a 2-2 Stidom offering way over the scoreboard in left field to trim the deficit to 11-6.
Once again in the seventh Ferguson was golden, and West Holmes had one final chance for a second straight miracle comeback win.
It never transpired. The hard-throwing Stidom gave up a single to Knapp before retiring the final two outs on strikeouts to let her team celebrate its regional berth in earnest.
Carrollton went just 7-7 in its league play this season, but head coach Tim Albrecht said the rugged slate of contests with league opponents helped prepare them well for the rigors of tournament play.
“The Northeast Buckeye Conference is a very tough league,” Albrecht said. “In that conference you have to come to play day in and day out, and that contributed to us losing 10 games this season, but it helped prepare us for this kind of a game.”
Albrecht also had high praise for Stidom’s mound effort, noting she has been a kid who has stepped up to challenges throughout her career. He said Stidom did a nice job of collecting herself after West Holmes made its run in the middle innings.
“She is a good pitcher, and in the Claymont game before this one, she did the same thing and regained her composure and got the job done.”
Chenevey said that with a team that can hit up and down the lineup, the girls never felt it was over, right until the game came to its painful conclusion.
“I’m proud of how we fought back,” Chenevey said. “We showed a lot of heart, and even until the very end, even with two strikes and two outs, I believed we could come back and put more runs on the board.”
But the great season came to a screeching halt, thanks in large part to one bad inning of play.
“It hurts because you want to go that step further. But we have nothing to be ashamed of this season, and they can be proud of the way they fought today. This is an exciting group to watch,” Chenevey said of her Lady Knights. “They can do some special things, and this season has been an enjoyable ride.”