MORRISTOWN - Roger Herbert can count on two fingers the biggest wins during his tenure as head coach of the Union Local girls' softball program. Ironically, both have come against Harrison Central.
Wednesday afternoon at cloudy and downright cold Jets Field, Union Local (4-2) rallied from an early 4-0 deficit to capture a thrill-packed, 5-4, 8-inning victory over the previously undefeated Huskies (5-1) in Buckeye 8 action.
Devin Earliwine's double down the rightfield line scored Abby Collins from second base with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning. Collins battled through a 11-pitch at-bat before drawing a base-on-balls. She advanced to second on a wild pitch and raced around when Earliwine sent a 1-1 pitch sailing down the line.
"Whenever you walk the leadoff hitter of an inning, that baserunner scores about 95 percent of the time," Herbert explained. "Abby had a big at-bat and Devin came up with the big shot.
"This us a huge win for us," Herbert added. "This is four (wins) in a row and we'll look for No. 5 (Thursday) at Bridgeport. The girls battled and battled. They never gave up."
Indeed not. Trailing 4-0 after two frames, it would have been very easy for the Lady Jets to put down their landing gear and settle in as in years past. However, not this season.
"Give them credit. They never quit and played with intensity the entire game," Harrison Central head coach Donnie Bethel assessed. "This game reminds me of our game earlier this season against Wheeling Park. They (Park) got off the bus and thought they were going to beat us. Well, that's kind of what happened today.
"We got off the bus with a lot of intensity and played like that for two innings, but after that, we lost that intensity," Bethel continued. "I'm not mad at my girls, but I do have to give credit to Coach Herbert and his girls."
Paige Richards scored on an error in the top of the first as the Huskies drew first blood. Katie Ellzy's RBI groundout made it 2-0.
Harrison Central doubled that margin in the second when Paige Dunlap's bases-loaded shot caromed off the foot of Union Local's third baseman for an infield hit, making it 3-0. Shianne Nameth's fly ball to center was deep enough for Ashley Heavilin to sprint home with the fourth Huskie tally.
However, little did anyone know that would be the final time the Huskies touched home plate on the day.
"Maddie (Schafer) settled down after the first couple of innings and pitched a heckuva game," Herbert noted of his junior hurler. "She doesn't throw the ball all that hard, but she's effective."
UL cut the deficit in half with two runs in the sixth off Ellzy, Harrison Central's junior ace who has already verballed to Robert Morris University. Junior Amanda Swallie, who was on base all four times, drew a leadoff walk. With the count 1-2, Schafer drove an Ellzy offering to deep right-center as Swallie circled the bases with the hosts' first run. An error on the relay throw allowed Schafer to take third, where Danielle Merritt took over as the courtesy runner. Merritt raced home on Morgan Edwards' groundout.
The Jets evened things in the bottom of the seventh when Cori Medley laced a double to right with one out. A passed ball advanced her to third from where she scored on Ali Delaney's sacrifice fly to center, making it 4-3.
Swallie coaxed another base-on-balls and never hesitated rounding first as she slid into second base safely. A wild pitch moved her to third, and with the count 3-2 on Schafer, ball four was in the dirt and caromed out of play as Swallie scored the game-tying run.
Schafer retired the Huskies in order in the eighth, the only time she did so in the game. That set the stage for Earliwine's dramatics.
HC 220 000 00 - 4 8 3
UL 000 002 21 - 5 7 1
HC-Ellzy lp (9K, 5W) and Saffell; Richards 2S; Dunlap 2S, rbi; Nameth SF, rbi; Ellzy S, D
UL-Schafer wp (2K, 4W) and Edwards; Medley D; Delaney SF, rbi; Schafer D, rbi; Edwards rbi; Earliwine S, D, rbi
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