West Branch rallies to beat Perry


West Branch scores three in sixth to get past Perry in D-II

By BOB ETTINGER

sports@vindy.com

AKRON

She might be over-simplifying her approach a bit, but Delaney Rito knew exactly what she needed to do with West Branch trailing by a run and chances to break through in short supply.

The shortstop delivered to knot the score before freshman Destany Blake came to the plate and did a solid impersonation of her teammate to bring home the go-ahead runs in the Warriors’ 3-1 victory over Perry in a Division II regional semifinal at Firestone Stadium on Wednesday.

“[My approach] was ‘see the ball, hit the ball’,” Rito said. “Up there in the box, I can’t think too much. When that happens, I don’t play well. I have to see the ball to hit it. That’s what I do. I can’t think too much in there.”

Grace Heath was hit by a pitch to lead off the top half of the sixth and sacrificed to second by Kylie Coffelt. Kelsey Byers was also hit by a pitch putting runners at first and second with one out. Rito followed with a single back up the middle to plate Heath to tie the score at 1, with one out.

“I was just thinking I needed a hit to get a rally going,” Rito said. “We believe hitting is contagious. I believed that after I got a hit, Peyton [Alazaus] would get a hit and they’d continue hitting after her and it would turn into a rally. It was contagious.”

Alazaus did follow with a single to load the bases for Blake, who did her part with a single up the middle past a drawn-in infield to plate Kenzie Erb, running for Byers, and Rito from second to make it 3-1.

“I knew the bases were loaded,” Blake said. “I’ve been there before. I knew I had to put the ball in play. If the defense got it, it got it. I had to do my job for the team. When the ball was coming in, I needed to see it and do the best I could to get that run in.”

It was the third game in a row the Warriors had to come from behind to win.

“They’ve fought all year,” West Branch coach Sis Woods said. “The girls believe in each other. They don’t get down when they’re down a run or two.”

The Warriors (25-3) will play Peninsula Woodridge (15-10) in the regional final at noon on Saturday. West Branch is making its fourth appearance at the regional (1997, 2004, 2011 and 2018). It’s just the second time the Warriors have won a semifinal (1997) and they’ve never won a regional final.

“Any time we’re here, everybody is good,” Woods said. “We’ll watch [Woodridge and Canal Fulton Northwest] and see [what kinds of teams they are].”

Byers allowed one run on two hits in the complete-game victory, better a good performance by Perry hurler Olivia Moon.

“It wasn’t too nerve-wracking for me,” Byers said. “I’ve been in that situation before. I know I had the fielders behind me and they would do what they had to do. If not for the fielders behind me, we’d never be where we are. My placement was definitely a part of it. I wasn’t going to pitch batters the same way [after seeing them once] because they would know what was coming. My riseball was on, my movement pitches were moving and I was working the off-speed stuff well.”

Byers struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter.

Moon allowed three runs on six hits, struck out two, walked one and hit three batters.

The Pirates (25-5) scored their run in the second after Emily Sines singled, moved up on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball. She scored on an infield single by Elle Infalvi.

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