Perryville softball wins 1A title, finishes season undefeated Panthers earn 10-9 walk-off victory over Boonsboro in extra innings
— As soon as Jordyn Reese crossed home plate to score the biggest run in program history, Lydia Hill broke from the ondeck circle and Ashley Meekins raced from first base, the three momentarily enveloping in a bear hug before the rest of their Perryville teammates joined the embrace.
They had a good reason to celebrate.
Two batters after Reese produced a run-scoring double to tie the game, she scored from third on a sacrifice fly by Meekins to deliver the Panthers a nine-inning, 10-9, come-from-behind victory over Boonsboro in the 1A State Softball Championship at University of Maryland on Saturday.
Behind one final big inning, Perryville (22-0) secured the first state crown in program history and capped its undefeated season in dramatic style.
“Just everything we worked for this entire season came together in the last inning, from one hit, and it just felt so good. To leave this way, to leave as a senior, just made everything worth while,” Hill said. “I just wanted to hug everyone. I was so happy I just couldn’t help crying. I was just an emotional mess, but it was incredible.”
With the Panthers trailing by one run, Reese went to bat in the final inning with a pinch runner, Nikki Hill, already in scoring position. Hill began the frame on second base due to International Tiebreaker rules, where the final batter of the previous inning begins the next frame on second base.
Rather than bunt the potential tying run to third base, Reese swung away, clubbing the first pitch she saw into the left-center field gap to easily score the pinch runner.
“I trust my coaching staff. To be honest, [assistant coach] Buzz Phillips came to me, right in the exchange, and [recommended we don’t bunt because] of how they played Kaitlyn [Griffin] [on a failed bunt the inning before]. They just suffocated everything in front. It had to be to be perfect or there was nothing there at all,” Perryville coach Dave Ruark said. “I trust my coaching staff and I just went with it. Hey, why not? Jordyn Reese has been hitting
great, she’s had a hitting streak for several games, she was crushing the ball yesterday in practice and they pitched it like they wanted to pitch for the bunt. It was right there and she smoked it. That was just such an energy changer.”
Reese then advanced to third base on a ground ball to second off the bat of Amber Keene, before running home when Meekins lifted a fly ball to deep left field.
“I figured they were going to walk me so I knew that if I had my pitch, I would have to get it and put it in play,” Meekins said. “I got it in play … I was out and just watched Jordyn cross home. I was just so happy.”
Perryville’s quest for a perfect season nearly took a heartbreaking turn a half-inning earlier.
Boonsboro (17-6), with the International Tiebreaker at second to begin the top of the ninth inning, also opted not to bunt. After the first two batters singled to give the Warriors a one-run lead, they elected to swing away. The decision cost them. Perryville freshman relief pitcher Mara Little struck out the side to escape the frame without further damage and gave the Panthers an opportunity to come back in the bottom of the inning.
“I was begging for an out. That’s all I could think about. How can we can get out of here without giving up three or four runs? We thought they would bunt, they didn’t. I make my fair share of calls that don’t go our way but everything just fell into place,” Ruark said. “The biggest thing was Mara getting down and bearing down and getting those huge outs. One [run] is very manageable. Two is completely doable and you could just tell when we came in [from the field afterwards] we had a great shot.
“Runners on first and second with no outs and to get out of there just with one run, that was just a huge victory.”
Both teams traded runs in the eighth inning. Boonsboro plated the International Tiebreaker after a bunt and a base hit, while Perryville’s Nicole DiGiambattista’s sacrifice fly scored pinch runner Kadi Davis, the Panthers’ International Tiebreaker, who scored from third after moving over on Little’s single.
The contest took a wild turn in the top of the seventh inning after the Warriors stunned the Panthers by scoring three runs with two outs to tie the score. Perryville then recorded three consecutive fly outs to center to lead to extra innings.
After Karly Paine and Alayna Pettyjohn both singled to open the seventh inning for Boonsboro, the next two hitters struck out and grounded out, respectively, to move up both runners with two outs. Carley Cline then walked to load the bases, before Rebekah Singleton delivered a two-run single and Payton Smith followed with an RBI hit to right field.
“Not going to lie, [the seventh inning] made me lose a little bit of faith. I was a little nervous for a little while,” Lydia Hill said. “But I knew we could pull it out and I had confidence in my team and I trust every single girl on this team to win. That’s what we came here for.”
Similar to when Perryville fell behind rival Bohemia Manor, 4-0, in the first inning of the North Region Section I Final matchup earlier this month, the Panthers once again found themselves trailing Saturday before they even took their first at bat.
After starting pitcher Emily Phillips struck the first batter out swinging, she allowed the next three batters to reach on a single, an error and a walk, respectively. Boonsboro’s Christina Baker then followed with a two-run single to give her team the lead, before Singleton capped the frame with a run-scoring single to center.
Unlike against the Eagles, however, when they finally took the lead in the fifth inning, the Panthers wasted little time Saturday battling back on the scoreboard.
Keene singled, Meekins doubled and Lydia Hill delivered a two-run double to center, before senior catcher Carly White reached on an error by the center fielder. Griffin then laid down a sacrifice bunt for the first out, moving both runners over. Little then delivered an RBI single to right that scored Lydia Hill, while White’s pinch runner, Brooke Reynolds, also scored when she crossed the plate on the same play on a throwing error by the fielder.
“[Boonsboro] really brought a lot of energy in that first inning. That’s kind of been our tough inning. A lot of times we’ve fallen behind after giving up a few in the first,” Ruark said. “But it’s almost without fail [Perryville’s] responded immediately.”
Lydia Hill finished 3 for 4 with a double and three RBI, Keene singled twice with two runs and Griffin, a senior, added two hits with an RBI and a run for the Panthers, who tacked on two more runs in the third inning and another in the fourth.
Little, who picked up the win with four strikeouts, took over for Phillips at the start of the eighth inning. Phillips recorded the nondecision, allowing seven runs on 12 hits with five strikeouts.
“It’s awesome. I’m glad for the seniors,” Meekins said. “For us, basically it’s a great goodbye gift to them. We made it as far as possible.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig
Perryville starting pitcher Emily Phillips, right, hugs her teammate, Jordyn Reese, following their team’s victory over Boonsboro in the 1A State Softball Championship at University of Maryland in College Park on Saturday.