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Softball's epic comeback stuns Northwest

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: May 21, 2017 12:00 AM
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TALLMADGE -- In a number of games this season, the Tallmadge softball team has rallied from late-inning deficits.

On this day, the Lady Blue Devils were beaten, battered and pretty much left for dead.

Well, at least it seemed that way.

Second-seeded Tallmadge rallied from a five-run deficit and then rallied again in its last at bat to earn a heart-stopping 13-12 victory over seventh-seeded Canal Fulton Northwest in a Canton Division II sectional title game May 12.

The Lady Blue Devils' season was on the brink of extinction for 5-1/2 innings.

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The Lady Indians crushed the ball on several occasions and made all of the plays defensively.

And then, everything fell apart for Northwest in a heartbeat.

Trailing 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth, Tallmadge (19-5) sent 11 batters to the plate and scored eight runs.

However, the Lady Indians bounced back quickly with four runs in the top of the seventh to take a 12-11 lead.

Northwest scored all of those runs with two outs.

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But the comeback kids from Tallmadge weren't going to be denied.

It all started when Lady Blue Devils' senior shortstop Olivia Ayres, who had three hits and a run batted in, led off the bottom of the seventh with a bloop double that landed just fair in shallow right field.

After a fly out to center, senior second baseman Madison "P-nut" Rearick put runners on the corners with a hard chopper up the middle for a single.

Rearick moved to second when Lady Indians' left-handed reliever Abby Francis' pitch got away from the catcher.

That set the stage for Jordyn Severns to send Tallmadge to district play.

The freshman catcher delivered.

Severns smacked a line drive to center that scored both Ayres and Rearick to score the tying and winning runs.

"Jordyn has done very well for us," Tallmadge head coach Ed Seeker said. "She has hit extremely well. She is one of the people you definitely wanted at the plate at that time."

Despite the hectic back and forth, Severns said there was no panic in the home dugout.

"Everybody just needed to get up," she said. "We've been there before. We just had to pump each other up."

Prior to all of the fireworks in the final two innings, Northwest was in control.

First baseman Olivia Francis smashed a two-run homer to right center in the top of the first.

Severns cut the Lady Blue Devils' deficit in half with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the first.

Tallmadge tied the game at two when Ayres ripped a run-scoring single to right in the second.

But Northwest gained some distance on the scoreboard in the middle innings.

The Lady Indians (8-12) scored twice in the third and three more times in the fourth to take a 7-2 advantage.

Olivia Francis had a run-scoring single in the third and starting pitcher Lauren Michel blasted a two-run triple to right field in the fourth.

Michel's hit ended the day for Lady Blue Devils' starting sophomore right-hander Emily Pratt, who lasted just 3-1/3 innings.

Olivia Francis then reached on an error against Tallmadge sophomore left-hander Hallie Mullett. The miscue allowed Michel to score from third and make it 7-2.

Despite the deficit, the Lady Blue Devils were starting to get more comfortable with Michel, a right-hander.

Such a fact became crystal clear in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively.

Severns led off the fifth by reaching base after getting hit by Michel's pitch.

Senior left-handed batting first baseman Olivia Carey followed with a double toward the fence in left center to score Severns.

Tallmadge had two more hard-hit balls in the inning. Unfortunately for the Lady Blue Devils, those two hard-hit balls resulted in all three outs.

Sophomore left fielder Gia Spitali smashed a hard drive off the leg of Michel, but the ball landed right to Northwest second baseman Jordan Miller, who threw out Spitali on a close play at first.

The next batter, senior right fielder Alyssa Garbinsky, sent a fly ball down near the foul line in left field.

Alexis Kyler tracked down the ball and made a diving catch.

Carey was running on the play and ended up being doubled up at third base to end the inning.

"We prevailed even though I made some coaching mistakes," Seeker said. "Some of the decisions I made worked against us. This group of girls have been so resilient. They refuse to quite."

The Lady Indians made it 8-3 in the top of the sixth when Michel crushed a run-scoring triple.

Despite having three more batters reach base after Michel's hit, Northwest did not score any more runs in the inning.

A key play was when Michel was gunned down at the plate after Mullett's pitch got away.

That crucial play turned out to be the second out of the inning. The Lady Indians' offense didn't stop, though. Northwest's next three batters followed with a single, a walk and another single.

Nonetheless, Mullett got out of the jam when she got a ground out to second with the bases loaded to end the inning.

The missed opportunity for the Lady Indians did wonders for Tallmadge.

That's because the Lady Blue Devils had, perhaps, their best inning of the season in the bottom of the sixth.

It all started with a leadoff walk by Mullett. Lady Blue Devils' third baseman Gabbi Gray and Ayres followed with singles and sophomore center fielder Autumn Malicoat made it 8-4 when she hit a sacrifice fly to right.

That was only the beginning.

Madison Rearick, who was hitless in her first three at bats, followed with a run-scoring double that took a funky bounce to allow her to move to second. Rearick's hit scored Ayres to make it 8-5.

Severns followed with a single to center to cut Tallmadge's deficit to 8-6 and then Carey drew a walk to load the bases.

Spitali then reached on an infield error and then the Lady Blue Devils tied the game when no one was covering first base on a ground ball by Garbinsky.

Michel got the next batter for the second out, but Gray delivered her second hit of the inning to give Tallmadge the lead.

Hit No. 2 turned out to be much more significant for Gray. She blasted a bases-clearing double toward the gap in left center.

Gray wound up being thrown out at third after the relay throw came home, but the Lady Blue Devils suddenly had an 11-8 lead.

"Gabbi has been very solid defensively," Seeker said. "She struggled at the plate early in the season, but she has really picked it up in the last four games."

However, the Lady Indians rallied.

Mullett got a ground out on the first batter in the top of the seventh, but then she started to have issues.

Mullett gave up a single to catcher Emily Meister, walked Miller and then hit center fielder Morgan Rearick with a pitch.

Once again, though, Tallmadge got a pivotal out at the plate.

Northwest tried a double steal, but Gray was able to run down Meister near home plate to get the second out.

Still, though, the Lady Indians kept coming.

Michel loaded the bases with a single and then Olivia Francis cut the Lady Blue Devils' lead to 11-9 with a single.

The next batter, left fielder Alexis Kyler, tied the game with a clutch two-run double off the fence in left center.

Third baseman Courtney Harris followed with a run-scoring single to give Northwest a 12-11 lead.

Mullett, who pitched 3-2/3 innings, got the win in the circle to improve to 8-3 in 2017.

Abby Francis took the loss for the Lady Indians.

"Our pitchers struggled," Seeker said.

Michel, who pitched the first six innings, reached base in all five of her plate appearances and finished with four hits.

Olivia Francis also reached base in all five of her at bats and had four hits. Kyler finished with two doubles for Northwest, who outhit Tallmadge 16-13.

Gray reached base in all four of her plate appearances and had three hits for the Lady Blue Devils.

Tallmadge committed three errors. The Lady Indians made one miscue.

"This was an unbelievable comeback," Severns said. "Once one person hit, everybody did."


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