It’s the last out that’s the toughest to get.
The Madison-Plains softball team experienced this first hand during a Division III Central District tournament first-round game against visiting Highland Monday, May 12.
A 6-2 seventh-inning lead quickly became a slim advantage 6-5, before Plains benefited from a fortunate bounce.
Plains’ pitcher Courtney Davis fired a pitch that was hit hard back up the middle, the ball ricocheted off Davis and right to third baseman Macy Long who fired a strike to first base and just beat the runner ending the game and giving Plains a 6-5 tournament victory.
It was fitting that the 12th-seeded Golden Eagles had that bounce and a number of others go their way in the tournament opener, after a season of seeing so many of them going the other direction.
“I told them if they want to win this game we have to win this game, they weren’t going to give it to us,” Eagles coach Kevin Stockham said. “Going out and winning meant we had to go out with the attitude that we wanted to win it. That means you don’t have the errors. We had just the one throwing error and it didn’t hurt us.”
Instead it was the opposing squad from Highland that made the miscues and a large reason for it was a change in philosophy by the Plains’ coach. With his team trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning and struggling to string a series of hits together needed to score runs he made a game-changing adjustment.
“We put a little pressure on them,” he said. “We saw some things when we saw them play last week on defensive and thought that maybe we could exploit them. The first couple innings we had some hits and scored, but we were doing it the conventional way.
“In the fifth inning we were at a spot in the batting order where we have some kids that can bunt. Some good bunters and good speed so we thought that would be a good time to throw out Plan B, play some small ball. The stuff that we saw when we watched them kind of materialized. We had some bunts, some for hits, they had some errors there and we thought that was the way it might go.”
Senior Kaliegh Whitaker reached base with a single, sophomore Taylor Sollars laid down a bunt that was fielded but a wild throw to first sent runners to second and third. Tori Bevington came up and singled in the tying run (2-2).
Macy Long then hit a slow roller to the pitcher who again threw it over the head of the first baseman allowing Bevington and Sollars to score. Liza Watson added an RBI single and the Eagles were ahead 5-2.
Bevington added an RBI single in the sixth to stake Davis to a 6-2 lead.
“She’s a defensive leader, she makes plays and she’s a scrapper,” Stockham said of Bevington. “She never gets cheated at the plate either. She fights and takes pride in her hitting, I know shes going to put the ball in play and she’s also so stinking fast. She’s definitely a leader for us.”
The Eagles walked away with the win and now advance to play at No. 11 Northmor at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 14. Plains knocked off Northmor in the first round of the tournament last year.
“It’s a good win for us because we’ve struggled in the tournament, we’ve had our struggles and now we move to the second round,” Stockham said. “The one thing I’ve learned about tournaments is you can’t win the second game until you win the first.
“We looked at the tournament bracket and basically our biggest goal is to get to Pickerington (district semifinal), we know what’s there when we get there (No. 1 ranked and defending state champion Bloom-Carroll), but we’re not even thinking about that right now. We’ve got to win the game on Wednesday first.”
Columbus South 1
In a game that was almost as painful to watch for the winning team as it was for the losers, the Red Raiders (11-11) thumped the visiting Bulldogs in a D-II first round tournament game Monday, May 12.
London scored 13 runs in the first inning, added seven in the second and tacked on eight more in its next two at-bats to cruise to an easy tournament win. London had 19 hits, while a trio of Red Raiders pitchers limited the visitors to just one hit.
Rachel Long and Lauren Miller each had three RBI, Talia Frye had five RBI which included a first inning grand slam, Taylor Melillo had four doubles and four RBI, Hannah Martin had a pair of RBI and Alli Farley a home run and batten in two.
With the win eighth-seeded London advances to a second-round tournament game where it will host No. 9 Buckeye Valley, starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14.
The two teams met in a non-league doubleheader earlier this season with the Barons winning 9-8 and 8-1.
“I think we owe Buckeye Valley a little bit,” Red Raiders coach Kelly Nelson said. “They have a decent pitcher, but we’ve seen kids as good or better this season. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
Shekinah Christian 12,
The Flames (7-14) sprung the first-round Division IV district tournament upset of the host Jaguars Monday, May 12.
Shekinah came into the tournament seeded 13th and the Jags ninth, but the visitors banged out 13 hits, scored four runs in each the first and fifth innings and walked away with the win.
Trent Helmuth was 4 for 5 with one RBI, Zach Yoder was 3 for 4 with five runs scored, while Zach Webb had two hits and 2 RBI. Webb went five inning on the mound before giving way to Mitchell Yoder for an inning and Zach Yoder closed with a perfect seventh frame.
With the win Shekinah advances to the second round where it will play at No. 1 seed Newark Catholic at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 14.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.