Pioneers claim district crown
Howser’s walk-off single in ninth sends Elyria to regional
It seems only fitting that the third installment of AmherstElyria’s district title rivalry would come down to the wire.
And it did just that, and then some.
The Pioneers (24-4) and Comets (19-8) battled in a thrilling back-and-forth contest that left fans on the edge of their seats throughout all nine innings.
That’s when senior April Howser came through with a two-out walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, sending Damia Parks home, and breaking Amherst’s hearts for the second year in a row as they defeated the Comets, 5-4, in the Division I Avon Lake District championship.
Elyria moves on to the regional semifinals where it will face Perrysburg at Clyde High School on May 23 at 2 p.m.
With her team’s season on the line, Howser admitted she had jitters.
“I was very nervous going into that at-bat, but I had confidence in myself because I’m a very good hitter in these types of situations. I was really hoping she would throw outside, because the last two times she threw outside I was able to punch it up the middle, and that is exactly what I did.”
Elyria coach Ken Fenik was taken aback by how great of a game he had just witnessed.
“All I knew for sure was that the green wasn’t going to quit, and we weren’t going to quit.” Fenik said. “Neither team was going to give up. I even thought maybe at one point there that we might have to resume the game tomorrow because it did start getting dark out here.”
After watching her girls get their heart broken by Elyria last year, it was another tough pill to swallow for Amherst coach Lacey Reichert. Though, she couldn’t have been more proud of their effort.
“That’s good high school softball,” Reichert said. “We told our girls, come out and compete and play the best game you can. We did, and they did. Both teams went at it, and unfortunately somebody had to walk away with a loss. We’re disappointed we lost, but we are extremely proud of our girls and how they played.”
The marathon game was a stalemate at first, as Amherst’s Madison O’Berg (176) and Elyria’s Isabella St. Peter (20-2) looked sharp in the circle through the first three innings.
After a scoreless and quick moving three innings, Amherst broke through with freshman Kylee McGraw’s RBI single, giving the Comets a 1-0 lead.
A normally dominant O’Berg began to wane as she had trouble finding the strike zone.
Fenik encouraged his girls to take advantage of the rare struggles from Amherst’s ace.
“I saw the same thing, and as the game went on we kept saying make her keep throwing, make her keep throwing,” Fenik said. “That’s what we did. She is a great pitcher. Maybe that eight-inning game yesterday had something to do with it, because she throws hard.”
“O’Berg went eight and two thirds innings, allowing five hits, five runs and seven walks while striking out five.
Elyria capitalized on the opportunity with Howser’s RBI double in the bottom of the fourth, followed by an RBI triple from sophomore Maycee Godbolt. Freshman Jessica Chapman squeezed out a sacrifice RBI before O’Berg could get out of the inning.
Cassie Miller of Elyria lines a hit against Amherst on May 17.
Amanda Crisler of Amherst hits a fly ball against Elyria on Thursday