ELYRIA — April Howser took the circle in the top of the sixth and final inning with Elyria holding a precarious one-run lead.
Tallmadge was on a roll offensively after scoring five runs the previous inning, four the inning before that and two the inning before that, but its impressive 11-5 lead had vanished in the wake of Elyria’s seven-run fifth.
Now, Howser had to step up and try to cool off the hot-as-a-firecracker Tallmadge bats.
Pressure? You bet.
But Howser was up to it as she struck out the side to save a 12-11 win and send Elyria to the Minor B (ages 9 and 10) district championship Monday night at Vic Janowicz Memorial Park.
Elyria advances to the state tournament in Portsmouth on Friday against an opponent yet to be determined.
Howser fanned the first batter swinging in the sixth on four pitches, the second batter on a called third strike on five pitches and the game-saving third on a swinging strikeout on six pitches.
“Yeah, I felt the pressure,” Howser said. “But my fastball was working and I got the three batters. I was so excited about us going to state.”
She started in the circle for Elyria and did quite well, retiring all six batters in the first two innings. But she got a little wild in the third, walking two and giving up a hit, and was taken out in favor of a relief pitcher.
“I was getting a little wild,” she said, not complaining about being lifted. “And because of that earlier trouble I was surprised to get the call to re-enter in the sixth.”
Manager Len Howser, her father, explained why he took her out earlier.
“I felt she was having trouble with her mechanics and didn’t have her best stuff,” he said. “But after Tallmadge scored five runs in the fifth, I turned to her again. She handled the pressure really well.”
Elyria had won 5-0 at Tallmadge on July 16.
“I told the girls that no two games are alike so forget that 5-0 game,” the manager said. “I knew we had to hold our ground and see if we could push back after we fell behind 11-5. And they did.”
Elyria’s big seven-run fifth started with the leadoff batter reaching on an error. Katelynn Weaver followed with a single. Two more walks, a hit batsman and singles by Howser, Rybeeca Kubisen and Cassie Miller led to the seven runs.
Kubisen scored what turned out to be the winning run on Miller’s single to right.
There were no extra-base hits in the high-scoring game.
“I was proud of the girls,” Tallmadge manager Brett Bickar said. “We fought back and took the lead. After losing to them 5-0 earlier and falling behind 4-0 in the first inning we could have quit, but didn’t. In fact, just the opposite happened after we took the 11-5 lead. We thought we had the game then.”
Contact Jerry Rombach at 329-7135 or email@example.com.