LEWIS CENTER — Three and a half hours of gut-wrenching softball action ended in dramatic fashion for the Jonathan Alder softball team Tuesday, May 16, at Olentangy High School.
The third-seeded Lady Pioneers (19-4) scored four times in the bottom of the 12th inning and overcame a 9-6 deficit to outlast No. 5 Granville 10-9 and advance to a Division II Central District tournament championship game.
On three separate occasions in the game Alder found itself in a score-or-go-home situation and found a way to plate the runs it needed.
“Are you kidding me right now?” Alder coach Dave McGrew said. “They had us dead and buried. They were up one twice in extra innings with two outs and no one on and we found a way to stay alive. Then they scored three in the (12th), I told my girls I felt good, we were in a good spot in our lineup. Spots 7-8-9 had been money today and then we got back to the top.”
In the final inning the Blue Aces scored three runs off of Alder starter Katelyn Perkins to take what looked like a commanding advantage. Down 9-6 the young Pioneers chose to do what they’ve done all season long, they chose to fight.
Caitlin Craig led of the 12th with a single. Haley Wagner followed with a single of her own. A flyout by Cierra Clark brought Kayla Fredendall to the plate with runners at first and second. She doubled down the line in left, plating a run and making it 9-7.
Freshman Emily Walker followed with an RBI single. She stole second leaving first base open. The Aces intentionally walked Jillian Jakse to load the bases. Perkins stepped to the plate and delivered a single to right field which allowed the game’s tying and winning runs to score. Sending the Pioneers fans home with smiles of disbelief on their faces.
Finding a way to continually come back and ultimately win a game it just as easily could have lost was what stood out to Perkins, who in addition to delivering the game-winning hit also threw nearly 200 pitches inside the circle, collecting the win.
“I just kept getting more excited and more motivated as the game went along,” Perkins said. “Before that last inning we just said let’s just have fun, relax and we capitalized on it.
“I was nervous, but I just knew I had to put it in play, I just did it. I think we just pushed through, when we had a bad inning we just kept playing and forgot about it.”
Alder trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh, was behind 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth and 9-6 before the final comeback.
The Pioneers will advance to face Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division rival River Valley in a D-II district championship game at Pickerington Central at a date to be determined. River Valley defeated Alder twice this season.
“We’re an inexperienced team that’s played above their head at times,” McGrew said. “We’ve beaten good teams and had some bad losses too. We didn’t have the depth at the beginning of the year, but we’ve come a long way.
“This will be a payback game with River Valley, I know they were back there watching. We just have to get rested up. I believe this team can get to state, I believe it in my heart, but this team could lose any of the next games, starting today. It’s up to them.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.