SHADYSIDE - Thursday night's Division IV sectional softball tournament co-final ended in the truest of walk-off fashions.
Shadyside's Angelina McKeever watched a 3-2 pitch miss the strike zone with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Tigers walked past River, 4-3, in an 8-inning thriller at the Mead Township Park Complex.
With the hard-earned victory, Shadyside (17-7), after a year absence, will make its second district tournament appearance in three years. The Tigers will meet perennial state powerhouse Strasburg, which eliminated Hiland, 3-1, Wednesday night. The district semifinal will be played Tuesday at 5 p.m. in New Philadelphia.
RIVER FIRST baseman Mikayla Cieszeski stretches for a throw during Thursday night’s Division IV sectional co-final game at the Mead Township Park Complex in Shadyside. The Tigers’ Shelby Benedetta was out on the play in the seventh inning.
"This was a really tough game," Shadyside head coach Jillian Ongley said. "I give River all the credit. All of our games with them are always like this."
After the Pilots (18-9) failed to score in their extra at-bat, Shadyside freshman Lindsey Dunn lined a leadoff single down the left field line. Winning pitcher Megan Heagney coaxed an ensuing base-on-balls - also on a 3-2 pitch - and Hayley Holenka's slow roller to the right side resulted in an infield single and loaded the bases for McKeever, whose walk brought in Dunn and set off a wild celebration outside the Tigers' dugout.
"We've been telling Angelina to be patient at the plate," Ongley added. "She listened to us today."
For River head coach Dave Wright, it was deja vu as his team advanced Tuesday night over Barnesville when a wild pitch rolled out of play with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and the game deadlocked.
"It's a tough way to go down," he noted. "But we didn't lose this game on that walk. We lost this game in the second and third innings when we had runners in scoring position and couldn't get a base hit. A couple of times we even had runners on third and less than two outs, and couldn't even get a groundball."
The two events Wright was referring to came when hot-hitting Haylee Bowers doubled to the fence in deep center leading off the second, but after being sacrificed to third, she would get no further.
An inning later, the Pilots plated two runs, but also left runners on second and third.
"You've got to be able to get the runs when you can," Wright added. "We couldn't do that today. We had plenty of opportunities, but we just came up short."
Shadyside took the lead in the second inning when Holenka and McKeever belted back-to-back doubles, with McKeever's opposite-field shot to the left-center field gap chasing in Holenka. A wild pitch moved McKeever to third and she raced home on Kenzie Fielding's base rap to right that made it 2-0.
River evened things up in the third as Madison Taylor led off with a double to right-center. With one out, Gabby Goudy went down swinging, but the ball got away and she scurried to first as Taylor took third. Goudy would steal second before the second out was recorded. Mackenzie Marshall drew a full-count walk to load the bases, and Bowers sent a rocket up the middle that knocked in both runners.
The Pilots also had runners on second and third with one out in the fourth, but Heagney, who fanned 19 Beallsville batters Tuesday, fanned the next two hitters to end that threat. River also threatened in the fifth when Bowers doubled to the fence in left-center with two outs. She swiped third, but Heagney got another punchout to end the inning.
All told, the Pilots left nine runners on base.
The Tigers took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth on a very strange play. Heagney's high fly ball to shallow left fell for a single leading off. She was replaced on the basepaths by courtesy runner Sarah Schofield. Holenka's hopper to third was field cleanly, but thrown low to first base as Holenka was safe. Schofield broke for third and beat the throw. The ball was then thrown to second in an attempt to get Holenka, but that didn't work either. It was then relayed home by Monica Curtis to Marshall to nail the sliding Schofield. However, an ensuing throw to third somehow got past three River fielders as Holenka chugged home.
"How does a ball like that get between three players?" Wright asked.
River tied the game in the top of the seventh when Bowers walked with two outs. Rosie Romick lined a single to left and when the ball wasn't fielded cleanly, Bowers alertly took third. She would eventually score.
Heagney finished with 14 strikeouts. She scattered seven hits and walked four. Holenka, Fielding and Saminda Francis all had two hits for the Tigers.
Goudy struck out five and walked three. She was touched up for 11 hits. Bowers was on base all four times she went to the plate. Taylor also had two hits.
River 002 000 10 - 3 7 2
Shadyside 120 001 01 - 4 11 2
Batteries: Goudy and Marshall. Heagney and Dunn
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