By Cassandra Swartz:
Big hits in all the key moments helped propel the Red Devils to an extra-inning upset over the Union County Tigers. Freshman Nevaeh Hayes turned out to be the difference maker with her walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth.
“We played together as a team,” said Williston head coach Lavar Williams.
“Tonight we finally put it together for nine innings...27 outs; that’s a long game.”
The Red Devils put the Tigers on their heels early, going up 2-0 in the bottom of the first against starting pitcher Lily Neal. Olivia Davis led off with a single, moved to third on a bunt attempt and scrambled home on a wild pitch for the first run of the night.
Hayes began her stellar night with a double, advanced on the second wild pitch of the inning and scored on the third to double the lead. Union County answered right back in the second by loading the bases with no outs. Hailey Rivera began the rally with an infield single and eventually scored on an error.
Angela Tucker drew a walk, and Tamia Young drove her home with a single to tie it. After several quiet innings, Williston broke the stalemate by notching three more runs in the fourth, all with two outs on the board. Layce Rowe drew a walk, Davis was hit by a pitch and Maci Vonderstrasse slammed a double to score Rowe andtake the lead again.
With Davis and Vonderstrasse in scoring position, Hayes delivered her second double of the night to bring them both home and make it 5-2. Again the Tigers fired back in the next half inning. Starla Vaughn led off with a double to left-center field, which was then mirrored by Hailey Rivera to take a run back.
Two straight walks loaded the bases, and after a fielder’s choice forced the lead runner out at the plate, Leah Clark laced a single that tied it up at five apiece. The next couple of innings passed with no scoring action but plenty of missed opportunities as both teams left runners stranded.
Red Devils starter Karley Jerrels was replaced in the circle by Raegan Geiger to start the sixth and moved to shortstop.Excitement mounted in the top of the seventh with time running out and the game still knotted. With McKenzie Clemons on base after hitting a single, Hannah Rivera lined a ball into right field.
The fielder dove but couldn’t come up with it, and the ball kept rolling deeper into the outfield. Clemons scored to give Union County its first lead of the game, and Hannah Rivera went for the inside-the-park home run, but the throw just barely beat her out and allowed the catcher to tag her. The Red Devils came to the plate trailing for the first time on the night and now with limited chances to recover.
An error put Austine Howard on base and a wild pitch advanced her to second. Neal made two excellent catches on pop-ups to bring Williston to its final out. Up to bat was Jerrels, who had not yet catalogued a hit in the game.
With both dugouts loudly cheering on their teammates, Jerrels dropped a ball into deep center to tie the game back up. Katie Caren replaced Neal in the circle and notched a strikeout to send the game to extras.
“I’ve been struggling with hitting,” said Jerrels when asked about her game-saving hit. “Tonight, I had to prove to my sisters that I’m back.”
The top of the eighth was a 1-2-3 inning, but the Red Devils loaded the bases in the home half to threaten. The Tigers escaped danger and sent themselves back to the plate. Randa Goodwin opened the ninth with a single and was replaced on base by Haley Burke.
After two outs, including a superb catch by Jerrels, Hannah Rivera delivered again to give Union County the 7-6 lead. Williston came to the plate down a run with only three outs left for the second time. Caren struck out the leadoff batter before Neal re-entered the circle.
Two walks and a hit batter later, the bases were loaded for Hayes who dropped a hit neatly into left-center and brought home Jerrels and Davis to walk it off, 8-7. Hayes, who is only a freshman, went 5-5 with a walk and a run. She drove in half of her team’s runs and secured the walk-off victory.
“Honestly, I was nervous,” said Hayes about her final at-bat. “I just knew I had to pull through for my team and get the hit.”
Vonderstrasse drew two walks on the night and added an RBI double and a run. With the win, the Red Devils ended a three-game skid and moved to 5-11. The Tigers dropped their second in a row to take them to 10-6.
“I am so proud of my girls,” said Williams. “Our record doesn’t define who we are.”