How an athlete handles pressure situations can usually dictate the outcome of a game.
During a Mid-State League Ohio Division clash Monday, April 21, players from visiting West Jefferson embraced the pressures of being in a first-place showdown, while some from host London were overwhelmed by it in what turned out to be an entertaining contest won by the visitors 7-5.
The Roughriders (10-2, 6-0) got a big hit in the top of the sixth inning, and London made a number of costly errors, none bigger than a dropped flyball in the top of the seventh which led directly to the game-winning runs being scored.
West Jeff’s Kennedy Campbell crushed a home run in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game at 5-5. West Jeff had trailed 5-3 after four innings. But instead of panic in the eyes of his talented team Roughriders’ coach Jim Stevens saw a determination.
“Wow is about the only way to describe this one,” Stevens said. “The kids know that it’s an addictive feeling, a base hit leads to another and everyone catches on.
“Kennedy struggled earlier in the game, but just before that at-bat I told her ‘you’re a great hitter just go get a good contact hit’ and the next thing you know she hit it and you knew right away it was gone. It’s a confidence thing. She’s a fighter at the plate and she came into this game swinging it well. She goes through lulls here and there, everybody does, but she’s her biggest critic.”
Campbell said she just tried to focus a little more on the hard-throwing London pitcher Lauren Miller.
“I was at the plate and I knew I had to stay calm to hit the ball,” Campbell said. “I took a deep breath and when I hit it I didn’t look at first and I got to first base and saw it go over. It was a little high, but I like high pitches. It felt good.”
The game was still tied 5-5 when West Jefferson came to play in the seventh and put together a rally.
London’s Miller had gotten the first two batters in the seventh but a single by Taylor Kauser and a hard hit ball by Emily Stevenson that hit off the glove of the Red Raiders third baseman, leaving runners at first and second with two outs. Campbell then came to the plate again and this time she hit a towering drive to left where the left fielder misplayed the ball allowing two runners to score and give West Jeff a 7-5 lead.
“It’s disappointing but there’s more than what happened in left field,” London coach Kelly Nelson said. “They scored three runs early and they never should have. You can’t win games with errors. We gave them runs there, we were down 3-0 and came back, our girls didn’t quit. But it’s tough when you feel like you should have won.
“We didn’t play a horrible game. Lauren pitched well enough to win. It’s too bad somebody had to lose. If you take away the errors it’s a different game.”
West Jeff was tested and Stevens thinks that will ultimately help his squad in the long run.
“I cannot take anything away from London,” he said. “They came prepared to play today. We haven’t been challenged like that in a while. I think our girls knew that London was here to play. But when these girls are up against adversity they seem to battle back. They are such a great group of girls that feed off each other.”
Annie Haenszel picked up the win for the Roughriders. She got a big helping hand from Kauser who had a single, double, triple and four RBI. For the Red Raiders (6-6, 4-2) Baylee Semler had a pair of hits and two RBI, Rachel Long had two hits and Aliyah Hiram had a hit with two RBI.
“I can’t say enough about these girls and how they play together,” Stevens said. “We stayed undefeated in the league and beat a pretty good team.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.