By Michael Rich
Coming back from five runs is one thing, but coming back from three runs twice in its final at-bat is a totally different thing.
That’s what the Olentangy Orange softball team did Friday afternoon, rallying past visiting Big Walnut to post a thrilling 11-10 win in eight innings.
“This is a heartbreaker,” Golden Eagles coach Jeff Hatfield said. “But, I tip my hat to (Orange). I’ll take a loss like this where we come out and battle.”
Orange (6-5, 3-2 OCC) trailed by as many as five runs and had to come back from three down in each of its final two at-bats to stun the Eagles in extras.
“I don’t know what to say,” Pioneers coach Bruce Leary said. “I’m proud of my kids for not giving up. That says a lot for the character of any team — to be able to come back when things look bleak.”
The teams combined for 27 hits in the 21-run slugfest. Kate Petty’s four hits and Taryn Hammond’s three hits led Big Walnut – efforts matched by Maicy Kirk and Marlo Robinson for the Pioneers.
Big Walnut (3-6, 1-4 OCC) got big hits early by Petty, Jessica Coletta and Jocelyn Lucas.
“I’m proud of the girls — they hit the ball hard,” Hatfield said. “We didn’t hit the ball well (in the loss to Westerville Central Thursday), but we executed pretty well on offense.”
Petty drove in a run in the first on a double off the centerfield wall. Coletta had an RBI single in the fifth to extend the lead to 6-2 and Lucas extended the lead to 7-2 an inning later on an RBI ground-ball single to right.
“I thought Petty was pitching great and we weren’t really making adjustments like we needed to for a lot of the ballgame,” Leary said.
Alyssa Laisure cut the deficit to two in the bottom half of the fifth on a two-run single to right — the first of nine runs the Pioneers would score in the final three times to the plate.
Raelynn Bishop came off the bench to start both last-inning rallies for Orange. She singled, then scored on Robinson’s double with one out in the seventh.
“She starts both of our rallies off the bench — that’s just amazing,” Leary said. “That’s a lot of pressure.”
Maicy Kirk followed with a double of her own to bring home Robinson and Laisure followed with a two-out single to tie it.
The Eagles weren’t done, however. Katie Neff opened the eighth with a line drive single to center and scored on another liner to center by Hammond, who later scored on an error when she was caught in a run-down on a squeeze.
“That was supposed to be a suicide,” Hatfield said. “She hesitated and I thought we were in trouble.”
Kate Petty drove in her second run on a single to center to cap the Big Walnut scoring.
Then it was Orange’s turn.
Six consecutive batters reached in the Pioneer eighth to win the game — the final four, Kirk, Alayna Kaschak, Natalie Woogerd and Laisure with two outs.
“We all pick each other up — we made a couple of mistakes, but that really didn’t affect us,” Kaschak said. “We just showed that we can always come back … we can always fight.”
“Give Orange credit, they came back and hit the ball,” Hatfield said.
Kirk and Woogerd drove home runs with base hits before an error at second base on a popup brought home Kaschak for the winning run.
“We fight to the very end and that’s what I love about this team,” Kaschak said.
Orange returns to action at Bloom-Carroll in non-league play this afternoon at 3 p.m. and Big Walnut will play league foe Franklin Heights Monday at 5:15 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.