WEST ALEXANDRIA – The young Tri-Village Patriots softball team has had to work for every win this season.
The Patriots’ last regular season game was a win – but it took nine innings. The young team could not put the Twin Valley South Panthers away. Tri-Village allowed the home team eight runs in the seventh inning, and the game went to extra innings with the teams knotted at 12 runs apiece.
The Patriots were able to break the tie and win 14-13 even though the Panthers almost made a second comeback in the bottom of the ninth.
Starting pitcher Shelby Bennett initially got off to a decent start. The Patriots’ offense started early, and she was able to pitch with a lead. Breeann Lipps hit a triple that scored two runs in the first inning, and she was in turn driven in by a base hit from Kelsie Wehr.
Lipps had a great game. Besides the triple she had three other base hits with three RBIs. She was aggressive on the bases and crossed the plate four times herself. On defense, she was part of two double plays – one in which she tagged out a runner and made a quick throw to first to just get the batter out. She stole what looked to be a blooper hit over second base by catching the ball on the run for the out and freezing the base runners to prevent any runs from scoring.
“Breeann has been improving,” Tri-Village coach Tracy Barhorst said. “She went through a slump where she was very frustrated. But since she recovered from that slump she has been hitting the ball hard and playing good defense. She knows that she needs more improvement, but she is working hard to get better every game. She is a good coachable kid, and you have to like that.
“Peyton Bietry had a good game at center field, too. She has started there for three years. She can read fly balls very well. She takes ownership of her game and is accountable. She doesn’t fall apart when things don’t go her way – and she comes up with big plays when we need it.”
Although the Panthers were able to score off of Bennett, they couldn’t seem to catch the Patriots and fell behind 10-4 as the teams entered the seventh inning. The Patriots padded their lead with two more runs, and they looked unbeatable with an eight-run lead.
But Bennett seemed to run out of gas. She walked a couple of batters and a few wild pitches allowed the runners to easily advance. When she finally began to get the ball over the plate, the Panther batters began spraying the ball around the field. Suddenly it was a one-run ball game with no outs.
Relief pitcher Loraligh Waters was brought to the circle. Her first batter was out, but the next two got hits and the tying run was scored, sending the game to extra innings.
The eighth inning was scoreless. But in the ninth Lipps and Wehr led off the inning with base hits and scored when Breanna Locke and Bennett knocked them in to put the Patriots back in front.
Now the Panthers needed to answer. Their first batter got a hit and later scored. The next two batters grounded out and flied out. The next batter got a hit and was able to advance to third base. On a wild pitch, that runner raced for home. Waters alertly covered the plate and applied the tag end the Panthers’ last threat.
“We started off being very strong, and then we just coasted when we should have kept pushing,” Barhorst said. “We made good things happen, and then a little thing happens here and something there, and then we forget that we need to keep working hard. Now the girls have come a long way this season, and so it was frustrating to see that gap happen in the middle of the game. But I liked the way we fought and came back in the end – that is good.”
The win should give the team some impetus going into the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournament. But hopefully the team will still have some gas left in the tank for their first round game that it will host against Fairlawn.