December 22, 2014

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Division I regional softball: Elyria on brink of state tourney thanks to huge comeback, extra-inning win over Oregon Clay

The Elyria Pioneers celebrate their 8-6 win over Oregon Clay yesterday in Clyde. DAVID RICHARD / CHRONICLE

Elyria players let the emotions fly after staging a crazy comeback to beat Oregon Clay in extra innings and advance to Saturday’s Division I regional softball final. The Pioneers rallied from four runs down to tie the score and then win it 8-6 in the eighth inning. DAVID RICHARD / CHRONICLE

CLYDE — Team Wow earned its nickname.

And then some.

Elyria softball coach Ken Fenik dubbed his club Team Wow after putting together a great run at the end of the season. He was left nearly speechless Wednesday after watching his Pioneers score four times in the sixth inning and twice in the eighth inning to pull out an amazing 8-6 win over fifth-ranked Oregon Clay in a Division I regional semifinal at Clyde High School.

Elyria, ranked 10th in the state, improved to 22-7 and will play the winner of today’s Brecksville–Holland Springfield game Saturday at noon back at Clyde High School.

“This was so special just to make it to the final,” Fenik said. “They girls stayed with us and believed even when we faced adversity. This is really unbelievable and a great experience for me.”

The experience started much better for the Eagles, who picked up an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning when Honnah Susor reached on an error and came around to score when Baleigh Bocook (2-for-4, two RBIs) stroked a single to center.

Elyria broke through against Oregon (28-3) starter Brooke Gallaher when Dierra Hammons walked to open the third and scored on a double to right-center by Madison Fullmer. Elizabeth Ellis (2-for-3) drove home Fullmer with a single through the middle to make it 2-1.

Ellis (19-5) kept the Eagles in check through four innings, but Oregon Clay sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, scoring five times to take what looked to be an insurmountable 6-2 lead.

After a Gallaher single, the Pioneers committed an error on a sacrifice bunt that opened the flood gates. Haley Dominique drove home a pair of runs with a single and Bocook knocked in two more with a double just short of the fence down the left-field line.

Hayley Schiavone drove home the final run of the inning with a flare to center field that fell between three defenders.

“It was a little frustrating getting squeezed by the umpire a little bit,” Ellis said. “I knew this team could hit, so I didn’t want to just lay the ball over the plate or walk them. The errors are frustrating, but you have to just keep doing your job.”

The Clay lead didn’t last long at all as Mackenzie Phares singled, Ellis walked and Carly Bachna singled to load the bases with nobody out in Elyria’s half of the sixth.

With the count 1-1, senior Kaitlyn Laseke drove in two runs with a single to center to cut the lead to 6-4, giving Elyria new life.

“I thought this team would be down after falling behind, but this team really pulled through,” said Laseke (2-for-3, two RBIs). “I just needed to focus and get a hit to help the team.”

The Pioneers received a gift run when Gallaher was called for her fourth illegal pitch of the game, sending Bachna home to cut the lead to 6-5. Alex Dick then tied the score with a ground ball to second sending the Elyria side of the diamond into a frenzy.

“I think she (Gallaher) may have been called for more illegal pitches today than she had in her entire varsity career,” Oregon Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh said. “I’ll have to go back and watch the television broadcast to see if I can tell what the umpires were seeing.”

Ellis was on the verge of getting pulled in the five-run inning, but she only allowed one hit over the last two innings of regulation, sending send the game into extra innings.

“I told her that this was her game to win or her game to use,” Fenik said. “She needed to relax and throw her pitches.”

The Pioneers wasted little time in the eighth as Bachna reached on a fielder’s choice and went to third on a long double to the right by Laseke.

Once again, Elyria got a lot of help when Gallaher was called for another illegal pitch, sending home the go-ahead run. Sophomore Kelsey Plato added an insurance run with a sharp two-out single through the middle for a two-run lead.

“I knew we were going to have to play defense, but we didn’t play the defense we wanted,” Fenik said. “After last year, when we walked out of here, I never thought we would be back here for a while. These guys are taking me on a stroll.

“All I can say about this team is capital W-O-W with an exclamation point.”

Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or jbrady_ct@yahoo.com.

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