Fortunately for the Plymouth Big Red, it was them. In the Division IV sectional semifinals, the Big Red hosted the Western Reserve Lady Roughriders in what turned out to be a barn-burner of a ballgame. The Big Red came away with a 16-15 win on a walkoff single by Tristen Wiley in the bottom of the seventh with two outs.
The Big Red earned home-field advantage thanks to a higher seed in the tournament draw and were lucky enough to earn the last atbat. With the game tied at 15 and the top of the order coming up, the Big Red knew they had a golden opportunity to win the ballgame. Janet Arnold drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After the next two batters went down, Wiley stepped in with two outs and a chance to play hero. Her liner to centerfield brought Arnold home and gave the Big Red the victory.
“We got the outs when we had to get the outs,” Plymouth coach Tracy Arnold said. “We just got out of jams late in the game and it came down to who finished their innings the most and we came through.
“She (Wiley) hit the ball hard all day. We talked about passed ball situations, but we were not sure if we would get any because Cooke is such an amazing catcher. Then I told her we were not going to need it. I told her she was going to poke it through and win the ballgame for us and she did.”
The beginning of the game was more like a boxing match as both teams threw some haymakers up on the scoreboard. The Lady Riders started things off with two runs in the top of the first, but the Big Red responded with five in the home half of the inning. After a scoreless second, Western put up four more in the top of the third, but the Big Red again responded with two in the home half to retake the lead.
Western went quiet in the fourth and Plymouth took the opportunity to turn the tables scoring three in the inning and making Western play catch up. The Lady Riders did just that scoring four runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 10. Plymouth responded by putting up five runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 15-10 lead and again Western came right back with five runs in the top of the sixth to tie it up yet again. Plymouth wen scoreless in the sixth and Western didn’t score in the top of the seventh setting up Wiley’s heroics.
“We knew we had the top of the order up and that was a bit of a relief,” Arnold said. “In the end, we ended up on the right side of the scoreboard and that is all that matters. We had two home runs today. (Shilo) Plank had one earlier in the season and went through a bit of a slump but broke out of it in a big way with that homer then (Emily) Blanton hit a key home run. That was huge and that was what helped us get through this ballgame tonight.”
Plank started things off just right for the Big Red with a first-inning two-run homer while Blanton came through with a three-run blast in the fourth.
Western Reserve coach Bob Cooke couldn’t be more proud of his team regardless of the outcome of Monday night’s game.
“We looked at the book and top to bottom, everyone did their job,” Cooke said. “From base running to paying attention, the spirit all over the field was there. We had some issues defensively, but for once, they did not let it effect them. They brushed it off and came back fighting. It was just back and forth and we knew it was going to come down to who was up last.”
Even more than his offense, he was very happy with how the Roughriders kept it together between the ears.
“We played an incredible mental game too,” Cooke said. “Usually if there are two outs and two strikes, it gets in our heads a bit, but not tonight. They made it work. We had two-out hits and two-strike hits. It was a lot of fun to watch.”
Jacy Riley lead the way offensively with four hits on the day for Western including two RBI and two runs scored. Emmalee Cooke collected three singles and scored three runs while reaching base five times with two walks. Morgan Boswell had two hits and two RBI while Caylee Baker also posted two hits and two RBI to go with her three runs. Hannah Gros had one hit and one RBI as did Cassie Bomar.
The Roughriders saw five seniors play in their final tournament game of their careers. Emmalee Cooke, Riley, Taylor Good, Caylee Baker and Emma Jennings have four more regular season games to say goodbye.
“I wish we could have done better record-wise for them,” Cooke said. “We were ready for this to be our year. But it went a little rough, but if we can finish the regular season out the way we played tonight, it should be a lot of fun. We are going to ride this out on an upward swing and we are going to have a lot of fun the rest of the way.”
The Big Red were led by Mallory Miller with three hits and two RBI while scoring twice. Morgan Chaffins had a two-hit, four-RBI night while Plank had two hits and three RBI to go with her homer. Emily Blanton had one hit and three RBI while Janet Arnold added a hit and an RBI. Kelsey Blankenship had two hits and Alivia Spears added the other hit.
The Big Red travel to Mohawk at 5 p.m. on Thursday to play for a sectional championship.