Collins Hill's Calli Star (9), Laine Simmons (3), Jordan Adicks (11) and Shelly Mooney (20) receive the championship trophy after defeating Harrison 7-1 in Game 2 of the Class AAAAAA State Softball Championship at the South Commons Softball Complex. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
COLUMBUS — The late innings weren’t very kind to Collins Hill in its first attempt to secure the championship Class AAAAAA State Softball Tournament on Saturday at the South Commons Softball Complex.
But with a second-chance in hand after dropping a 2-1 decision in eight innings to Harrison, the Eagles came through with a little late-inning lightning of their own in the final game.
Madison Palmieri’s RBI single in the fourth put Collins Hill in front to stay, and the Eagles tacked on four important insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure their fourth state title in the last five years with a 7-1 victory.
“The girls played hard,” Eagles coach Paul Pierce said. “Our hats are off to Harrison. They have a great program, and they came to play (Saturday). Fortunately, so did we.”
Having played three times in less than 18 hours — Collins Hill (29-5) scored a 4-1 win in a winner’s bracket game delayed late into Friday due to rain — both teams had to endure plenty of drama Saturday, especially late in a thrilling first game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh.
With the potential winning run in scoring position and two outs, it looked like extra innings were definitely on the horizon when Aeshia Miles swung and missed at an apparent third strike.
But a foul ball from an adjacent field had landed on the stadium field’s playing surface before the pitch was delivered, and the umpire had already signaled for time out.
Given another swing, Miles sent a lined shot to center that looked like it might be the title-clinching run, only to see Harrison center fielder Brooke Taylor sprint in to snag it and force extra innings.
The Hoyas (30-9) then struck for a run in the top of the eighth by cashing in a throwing error before Bridgette Rainey smacked a solo home run to make the score 4-2.
And thanks in no small part to a double play turned by Sierra Maddox after snagging Tyra Holiday’s pop-up bunt despite colliding with her catcher Abby Broome, Harrison made the lead stand up to force another winner-take-all game.
The Hoyas then jumped out in front 1-0 on Taylor’s RBI grounder in the top of the first of that game before Miles (9-1), who had taken the loss in relief in the first game, began to settle down.
The junior right-hander only allowed two more hits the rest of the way, including retiring the last seven hitter she faced and 17 of the last 18.
“We worked so hard for this,” said Miles, who allowed six hits and three earned runs and struck out 10 in 9 2/3 total innings on the day. “Our team has heart. … We used that, and that’s what got us through. … I just took a deep breath. A lot of us have been in this situation before. We just took deep breaths and did what we do best.”
It started in the bottom of the inning when Collins Hill answered Harrison’s early run as Calli Star drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game 1-1.
And it carried over into the bottom of the fourth, when Palmieri came to the plate with two outs and a runner on second.
The junior delivered by taking an outside pitch to the opposite field for a single that brought home courtesy runner Aaliyah Bryant to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead.
“My best pitch to hit is outside,” Palmieri said. “So, I was looking for something outside that I could hit hard. Every run counts, especially in big games like this because the other team is so good.”
Still clinging to that one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles made every at bat count, beginning with Brea Dickey’s two-out, RBI single to right that plated Holiday to extend the lead to 3-1.
Dickey’s hit also opened the floodgates, as the Eagles pounced on two Harrison errors and cashed in with RBI hits from Laine Simmons, Jaime Hoover and Star.
In all, five runs came home to push the lead to 7-1, and Miles retired the Hoyas in order in the seventh to slam the door on the title.
Hoover had a strong day at the plate for Collins Hill by going a combined 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBIs and five walks, while Amanda Chance went 2-for-2 with an RBI in the day’s first game.
Brookwood 1, 8 innings
For the second straight game, the Broncos stayed in the game behind excellent pitching from Amanda Ablan (21-6) and rallied late to force extra innings.
But this time, Emily Syverth delivered a two-out, walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to end Brookwood’s season at 25-13, in an elimination game Saturday morning.
Down to their last out after singles by Ablan and Ansley Jones to lead off the top of the seventh, the Broncos managed to pull even on a Lassiter error on Baylei Banfield’s infield grounder to tie the game 1-1.
But they could not push across the run in their half of the eighth, setting up Syverth’s heroics. It was a tough ending for a big day from Ablan, who gave up just five hits and two earned runs — one of them a solo home run to Carli Kayler — with seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. Taiylor Rinehart also went 1-for-3 for Brookwood.