- 1 of 3 Photos | View More Photos
SUGARCREEK -- River View and its ace hurler Peyton Werntz were sitting pretty with an 8-0 lead over West Holmes heading into the fifth inning of the Div. III Eastern District softball semifinal Tuesday at Garaway.
The Knights had managed four hits off the hard-throwing Werntz, but never really threatened.
Until the fifth inning, when West Holmes answered River View's six-run fourth with a six spot of its own.
The Knights then rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh and held on for a comeback of biblical proportions, scoring a 9-8 victory and advancing to Thursday's District championship against the winner of Carrollton and Claymont at a site to be determined.
"This was easily the best, biggest comeback, most exciting, for me," said West Holmes coach Jamie Chenevey. "We're never out of a game. Our bats can keep up us in any game as long as they believe they can do it and don't beat yourself. To never give up, especially halfway through the game, that's impressive, I don't care who you are."
The 19-6 Black Bears scored single runs in the second and third innings to take a 2-0 lead, and then erupted for six runs in the fourth to take an 8-0 advantage.
Werntz got the River View rally rolling with a single. Chenevey relieved starting hurler Olivia Ferguson with Morganne Balder, who promptly plunked a batter and had a runner reach on an error to load the bases. Another hit batsman scored one run and a walk forced another, before Chenevey brought Ferguson back. She got a fielder's choice that scored a run, but then grooved one to Gracie Dunlap who blasted a three-run homer to left-center for an 8-0 lead.
Ferguson retired the next two batters to end the inning, but the Knights looked defeated.
And then Lazarus arose from the dead.
Samantha Rogers reached on an error and Becca Vales followed with a single to open the West Holmes fifth. A bunt single by Savannah Rogers loaded the bases, but an errant throw allowed Rogers to score. Another error on a ground ball by Maddie Woods loaded the bases. A ground ball back to the pitcher set up a double play, but Werntz airmailed the throw home, allowing Vales to score, leaving the bases loaded for Natalie Martin, who blasted her first homer of the season, a towering grand slam over the left field fence, trimming the River View lead to 8-6.
"I got loose, stayed loose finally and did what I needed to do," Martin said. "Our team can get out of anything. We've proven that in many games. We just had to stay positive for our other teammates, and when they're down, get them up and rolling."
The Bears threatened with two on and one out in the fifth, but the defense of West Holmes held up, getting out of the jam on a pop-up and a groundout.
"We had some rough defensive innings, and we had kids make mistakes, but they turned it around and made some huge plays to keep us in the game and take us over the top," Chenevey said. "Morganne's done a great job for us all season, but she had a rough go today, so we went back to Olivia, and she did a great job of staying within herself, keeping her composure and getting the job done there at the end."
Martin, the West Holmes catcher, also had a message for her battery mate.
"I told her to go out and hit her spots and do what she needs to do, and she did it. She let her defense work behind her," Martin said.
After a scoreless sixth, Chenevey told her troops they needed two runs or they were going home. And they responded with three.
Callie Cline doubled to right-center to open the seventh against relief pitcher Alyssa Thomas. Martin singled Cline to third and stole second. Jazz Knapp then laced a two-run double over the head of the centerfielder to tie the game at 8-8. After a pop out by pinch hitter Marris Hoffee for the first out of the inning, Morgan Allen drove a single to right field to score the go-ahead run for the Knights.
After a bang-bang sacrifice play at first that ousted Samantha Rogers, Vales singled to right but Allen was gunned down at home trying for an insurance tally.
In the bottom of the inning, two pop outs and a groundball to short set off an ecstatic celebration for West Holmes, which advances at the cost of a pretty good River View team.
"When you don't play ball, you're not going to win," River View coach Bonnie Infante said. "We got relaxed and didn't play ball. We knew we couldn't leave the ball over the plate against this team or they would crush it, and they did. And when we don't show up and play the way we know how to play, we're not going to win."
The Knights banged out 13 hits and took advantage of four Black Bear errors. Ferguson scattered nine hits to earn the victory, striking out one without walking a batter. Balder walked one and hit a pair.
"We just kept pushing. We're really confident with the bats, but we made some phenomenal plays on the defensive side that kept us in the game," Vales said.