By Brandon Judeh
Clinging to a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning, things looked gloomy on an otherwise sunny evening for the Champion softball team.
Pitcher Kayla Hunt knew it was up to her to work out of this jam — with a little help from her catcher, Sierra Blackson.
After a Gabby Cario popout Alli Rose stepped up to the plate as Girard’s final hope.
“I was nervous facing the final two batters, but I have faith in my pitches and in my catcher and she called some great pitches,” Hunt said.
Up in the count 0-2, Blackson called for a rise-ball and Hunt blew it by Rose for the final out in the Golden Flashes’ 4-3 victory.
The win keeps Champion undefeated against Girard this century.
The Indians have not beaten the Golden Flashes in 14 years.
“Coach [Cheryl Weaver] put a little bit of pressure on us to keep up the streak, but I knew if we came in here and played our game we could do it,” Hunt said.
In the top of the eighth, Champion (7-7-1) the two-time defending Division III state champion, found itself with a runner on second with two down and senior Brooke Culler up to the dish.
“She gave me a meatball straight down the middle,” Culler said.
Culler turned the tasty meatball into an RBI double down the left-field line giving Champion the final lead of the game.
“When it left my bat I thought it was gone, but then I saw it hit near the fence,” Culler said.
“It felt great to put an end to this game.”
Though she picked up the loss, Girard (9-7, 5-5 AAC) pitcher Neco Maderitz tossed a great game, scattering seven hits over eight innings. She struck out four.
“She always pitches well,” Girard coach Renny Paolone said. “She’s by far the best pitcher I have ever coached. She is so workable, she works so hard throughout the year, not just during softball season.”
After the Indians took an early 1-0 lead, Champion answered with two runs in the second.
Blackson hammered a solo shot over the left field fence and Mackenzie Kiser doubled to grab a 2-1 lead.
Girard would strike again in the bottom half of the inning when Cario slammed an RBI double of her own to tie the game.
Down 3-2, the Indians tied the game again in the fourth. After two consecutive errors, Mackenzie Olesky scored on a wild pitch.
“Girard vs. Champion is such a great rivalry, it’s always a close back-and-forth game, thank goodness we came out on top,” Weaver said.
Champion’s Amber Ricci had an RBI triple.
Hunt struck out eight Indians.
Girard freshman Karlee Byrne finished 2 for 3 with an RBI and Kylie Kulon doubled and scored a run.