It seems like every time the Delaware Hayes softball team squares off with Hilliard Bradley these days, the Jaguars make a big comeback late.
Wednesday’s battle was no different as the Pacers built a 7-0 lead through three innings only to watch it disappear.
But when all was said and done, Hayes won an entertaining, back-and-forth bout on a Haley Osborne squeeze bunt and walked it off to clinch at least a share of a second consecutive OCC-Cardinal title.
The Hayes win coupled with Hilliard Darby’s win over Dublin Jerome give the Pacers a three-game lead in the standings with three to play.
Bradley scored two runs in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh, but ran out of gas in an 8-7 decision when the two teams met Apr. 8.
The Jags overcame an early four-run deficit with an eight-spot in the sixth inning to run away with a 10-5 win in Delaware last season.
This time, the Pacers built a seven-run lead. Bradley scored six in the sixth inning to take a 10-8 lead before Laiha Slayton hit a three-run dinger in the bottom half to put Hayes back in front.
“I knew that I just had to come through for my teammates,” Slayton said.
Jaiden Bryant gave the Jags the lead in the seventh with a two-out, two-run double to deep center.
“They made some good plays and Bradley’s a good team,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “We fought through it. We had a nice lead and made a couple of mistakes on the mound and defensively.”
But the Pacers couldn’t be denied.
Chloe Barton and Lexi Mattix opened the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back singles before Bobbi Adams worked a walk to load the bases.
Kami Slayton followed with another walk to tie the game 12-12.
Thomas and Osborne discussed what to do next.
“I asked her what she thought of putting (a bunt down),” Thomas said. “She said, ‘I’m there for you.’ I said that she needed to put it down to first base and it was great because it was a change-up. It was a great pitch to bunt.”
He told her to lay off the first pitch after back-to-back walks. It was a called strike. The next pitch was rolled perfectly between the circle and the first base line to easily score Mattix from third.
“It was just a great feeling actually getting it down,” Osborne said. “It was so scary at first because I thought I was going to miss it.”
Thomas was emotional after the game. The Pacers are 11-0 in the league and 16-3 overall. They don’t feature an all-state player like the teams of years past.
“We’ve had to have heart, we’ve had to have (determination),” Thomas said. “There’s no quit in these girls and it showed tonight. I’m just so ecstatic. We could have folded … and we battled through it.”
Thomas couldn’t help but give credit to former coach Jim Warbel.
“If it wasn’t for me learning from him – I wouldn’t be where I am,” Thomas said.
Kami Slayton drove in three runs on three hits, including a two-run double to open the scoring in the first inning.
Barton and Mattix finished with three hits apiece and Osborne, Myaih Cloud and Judea Wilson had two hits and an RBI apiece. Wilson hit a solo homer in the fifth inning as the Pacers scored at least a run six of their seven times up.
Osborne went the distance in the circle. She gave up 12 runs, all earned, on 14 hits and four walks and struck out six.
She allowed one hit through the first three innings before Bradley got hot.
Bryant, Kenna McClelland and Michaela Medich each hit two-run homers to help the Jaguars whittle down Hayes’ lead.
Bryant finished with two hits, four RBI and scored twice and Annika Murray added three hits and scored three runs for Bradley.
Macie LoParo took the loss for the Jaguars (10-7, 7-4) in a complete game. She allowed 13 runs, six earned, on 17 hits and four walks.
Next up, Hayes travels to Worthington Kilbourne to continue league play today at 5:15 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.