Teays Valley erupted for six runs in the sixth inning to overcome a two-run deficit and beat Olentangy in the Division I softball regional finals Saturday afternoon at Ohio State’s Buckeye Field.
It was a disappointing ending for sure, but certainly a season that will be remembered.
The loss ends a historic tournament run for Olentangy, which had never reached the regional final round until this season.
Olentangy needed walk-off wins over Upper Arlington in the second round and Gahanna Lincoln in the regional semifinal as well as a last-inning rally to beat Hilliard Bradley in the district semifinal round.
Those were all one-run victories in a tournament that saw the team capture its first district title since 1999 after winning its first OCC title since 2012 in the regular season. That team made it as far as the regional semifinals.
“We started here six years ago and we do a lot of the same things every year,” Olentangy coach Alan Tharp said. “It’s all character-building, respecting the game, respecting the people and love for your sisters. You build that relationship with the kids and it’s a great (process). We had a great season.”
Hailey Struckman, who finished 3-for-3, led off the sixth inning with a solo home run before Cassie Feyh belted a two-run shot to give the Vikings a 6-5 lead.
“We were getting by, throwing up getting them out,” Tharp said. “They hit a couple balls off us – that’s all there is to it.”
They blew it open with a RBI single by Anna Gill and a Katelyn Loughman two-run triple.
“You see a pitcher all game and if you’re good hitters — and you’re in the regional final, so you’re good hitters — you make adjustments,” Tharp said. “Pitching also has to make adjustments.”
Both Gill and Loughman tallied a pair of hits apiece to back Struckman’s effort.
Olentangy played from in front for most of the game.
Payton Cox belted a solo home run off the scoreboard in center to give Olentangy a 1-0 lead in the first.
Brooke Wells broke a 1-1 tie in the second with a hard liner off the pitcher’s glove to score Emily Bullock, who was hit by a pitch with one out.
The next batter, Morgan Cox, drove in two more with a double to push the lead to 4-1.
Teays Valley got two of those runs back in the third on a Struckman RBI single and a Macey Moore run-scoring double.
Both pitchers – Olentangy’s Sophie Low and Teays Valley’s Sarah Klein — settled in as the game wore on.
Klein didn’t allow a hit after Olentangy’s three-run second until Kirsten Kracht’s one-out single in the sixth. She set down seven straight batters at one point and 10 of 11.
“She didn’t throw anything special,” Tharp said. “We were hitting her pretty much most of the game. She’s a lot like Sophie … she mixes her speeds well.”
The Kracht base hit seemed to give Olentangy the momentum back. Emily Gernert found the right field corner for a triple to drive home Kracht, pushing Olentangy’s lead to 5-3.
Low, meanwhile, had a string of seven straight batters retired after TV’s two-run third.
But, the Vikings sent 11 to the plate in the sixth to take control. Low recovered to strike out the next two batters after the two home runs.
But, TV rallied for four straight hits and a walk.
Low allowed nine runs (five earned) on 10 hits with seven strikeouts over 5.2 innings before giving way to Payton Cox.
Klein went the distance for the Vikings (24-3) to pick up the win. She allowed five runs (all earned) on six hits and a pair of walks with six strikeouts.
TV advances to the state final four at Akron Firestone Stadium where it’ll face Massillon Perry Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]