Shortly after celebrating a 7-6 win over Notre Dame, Valley senior Faith Brown taped a bag of ice to her right arm.
Brown had earned it, after all. Two days removed from throwing 15 innings in a 7-5 win over Eastern Meigs, Brown pitched nine innings against the Titans.
“That arm has got to be unreal, it’s like a bionic arm by now,” Indians head coach Montie Spriggs said. “She’s pitched 24 innings in the last two days.”
Sore and still in shock, Brown described the past few days following the game.
“I can’t even describe it, I am on cloud nine right now,” Brown said. “We’ve worked so hard for this, and this is what you want. At the beginning of the season, this is what you plan for, so it’s unbelievable.”
“I laid it all on the line. I’m a senior, and I played my hardest and I know the other girls out there did too.”
Topping off her pitching performance, Brown drove in the game-winning run on a bloop single to right field that scored Marissa Markins.
In the past two games, Brown has pitched 24 innings and surrendered 11 runs in that span. She struck out seven against Eastern, and walked only two.
Brown’s success hasn’t stopped on the hill, as she went 6-for-10 at the plate with three RBIs in the previous two district games.
Along with Brown, Valley rallied once again to beat a fellow SOC foe and advance to their first regional tournament trip since 2012.
“Nobody expected us to be here,” Brown said. “Everybody saw us as the underdog, and nobody thought we would make it out of the first round … I have so much pride that runs through me, and I’m so proud of them.”
Notre Dame jumped out early, scoring four runs in the opening inning.
Senior Molly Hoover started the game with an infield single, and came home two batters later on a Cassie Schaefer double to left field.
Schaefer would end up at third at the end of the play, and Claire Dettwiller brought her home on a sacrifice fly to make the score 2-0 Titans with two outs.
Continuing their hot start, the Titans would score two more on three consecutive doubles.
First, it was Taylor Schmidt nearly leaving the park with a two-bagger off the left field wall. Schmidt would finish with a team high three hit and three runs batted in.
Schmidt would score from a Bailey Webb double that split the gap in center field, then Lauren Delabar brought her in on a double to left.
Notre Dame was ahead 4-0 after one, and looked to be in control early.
With a quick advantage, it appeared as though the Indians had a little layover from their 15-inning contest on Thursday evening. After all, Brown was back on the mound and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe she was tired.
Yet, the valiant Valley team would just not go away.
The Indians cut into the deficit in the bottom of the second on an RBI double from Madison Kuhn (2-for-5) that scored Margaret Caldwell (2-for-4, two runs).
An inning later, the score was even as Valley put three runs on the board. It began with Caldwell reaching on a fielder’s choice, then coming home on a double that dropped in right field from Marissa Markins.
Kuhn would make it a one run game as she scored on a wild pitch. Kirbi Sommers would then plate Markins on an RBI groundout to tie the game.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Titans head coach JD McKenzie said. “I thought they were pretty similar to us team wise, and they did some little things better than we did today and that’s what happened.”
“You look at a game like that, and it came down to who executed little plays better than the other team and they did. Give them credit, we jumped out on them 4-0 and they came right back and responded.”
Keeping with their scoring streak, the Indians took a two-run lead in the fourth. First, Kensie Spencer came home on another wild pitch. Then, Brooklyn Weeks scored on a single from Caldwell.
It wouldn’t take long for Notre Dame to storm right back, however.
A one out double from Dettwiller made Schmidt the tying run, and she stepped up big time.
Schmidt then crushed a pitch over the left field wall, and the scoreboard evened up at six as Schmidt was serenaded at home plate by her teammates.
Neither side would score again in regulation, and it was on to extras to claim a victor.
It looked as though Valley had a district championship in their grasp in the bottom of the eighth, especially after they loaded the bases with no outs in the inning.
The Titans wouldn’t panic, and got out of the jam behind a solid performance from Schaefer, their pitcher.
Notre Dame grabbed two force outs at home, and Schaefer struck out Haylee Stone swinging to escape the bind.
“That was pretty special,” McKenzie said. “Them having bases loaded with no outs, and us making three straight plays to get out of the inning, that was big.”
With the top of the order set to come up for the Titans, they would only muster one hit in the ninth. It was now time for the Indians to capture the crown.
Starting off the inning, Caldwell was hit by a pitch. Kuhn would then strike out swinging, and Markins would reach base on a fielder’s choice.
There were now two outs in the inning, and Notre Dame eventually opted to walk Sommers. That meant it was up to Brown, who stepped in with Markins at second and Sommers at first.
Faced with a 1-2 count, Brown caught just enough of the ball to send it into shallow right field.
Markins got the green light from Coach Spriggs, and hustled around third to try and win the game. The throw was not in time, and Valley was victorious with a 7-6 walk-off win.
The hit was just what the doctor ordered for Brown, who knew exactly where she needed to send the ball.
“The runner was at second, so I knew something had to be backside for Marissa to score,” Brown said. “When I hit it, I thought I got under it a little bit, and when I saw the girl running I thought she caught it.”
While she was nervous that the ball might not drop, once it touched down and Markins crossed the plate, emotions quickly shifted from anxious to amazement.
“When I was running towards second, I saw Marissa scoring and I just took off running towards Marissa,” Brown said. “I don’t even know where the ball was or anything, it was absolutely indescribable.”
Once again, the Indians fought back for a win. The mantra of “don’t quit” again reigned supreme for Spriggs and his squad.
“They will not quit,” Spriggs said. “It doesn’t matter if they get down three or four runs, they won’t quit. They don’t know what the word quit means.”
“We’ve been down before. We’ve been down to Wheelersburg, we’ve been down to Minford, and we didn’t quit. We’ve just got to make sure we don’t give the big inning away, as long as we stay close we’re OK.”
The win overshadows what was a tremendous season for McKenzie’s Titans and another solid outing from Schaefer.
Schaefer struck out eight Valley batters on the day, though her coach says she wasn’t at full strength.
“Her back tightened up on her after the first inning, she’s been having some back trouble,” McKenzie said of Schaefer. “She obviously was not as sharp as she normally is, but as the game went on she worked through it. She’s a bulldog, and I told her when the game is over you’ve got time to rest, keep working, and she did.”
Though she was not at a hundred percent, her coach still isn’t using that as an excuse.
“You’d like to see Cassie at her full potential right there, but it’s just not the way it is,” McKenzie said. “Especially this time of the year, everybody is battling some kind of injury.”
The loss means the end of the careers of three Titans seniors: Molly Hoover, Lauren Delabar, and Ali Smith.
McKenzie coached all three on the softball diamond as well as the basketball court.
“You hate to see them go,” McKenzie said. “I’m lucky that I got to coach them again, and it didn’t all just end in the winter.”
“It’s special to me to be able to coach them in two sports, and go out with them on their last hurrah here. You can’t say enough about Molly, Ali, and Lauren and what they’ve brought to this team.”
When the Indians face Danville on Wednesday at Pickerington Central High School, they’ll have a fan back home in McKenzie.
“I want to wish Valley and Clay good luck in the tournament, and all the SOC teams that are still playing in it,” McKenzie said. “Hopefully they can represent southern Ohio well.”
The district run has been one to remember thus far for Valley, but now it’s on to regionals and a chance to make this season even more memorable.
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