WAVERLY — Sometimes you have to “elevate to celebrate.” Just ask Waverly’s Zoiee Smith, Hailey Robinson and Emma Bellaw.
In a 12-11 walk-off win over Minford Wednesday evening, that trio hit five combined home runs. The elevation happened at the plate, the celebration took place in the dugout.
But the Tigers’ bats didn’t start out so hot. In fact, it was a come from behind victory and a game they once trailed in by six runs — they faced a 9-3 deficit heading to the bottom of the fifth.
Then, everything clicked.
“As many veteran kids as we had come back, you just never know how you’re going to respond in that situation,” Waverly coach Scott Hayes said. “We have kids who have played in situations like that but over half of the lineup has never had to do it. It was a great learning experience for them and they have to have that experience for it to mean something the next time the situation may come around.”
Waverly (12-3, 8-2 SOC II) tallied eight runs against three different pitchers in the fifth … and Smith, Robinson and Bellaw all hit home runs in a frame where the Tigers sent 13 hitters to the dish.
“Blame the coach for some of the at-bats in the middle. It took me until the third or fourth inning until I just went to each of our kids and told them what their approach was,” Hayes said. “That’s when we started hitting. Instead of chasing, we were selecting our pitches better.”
Smith started the evening’s scoring with a solo bomb over the right field wall before the Tigers tacked on another run in the first, taking a 2-0 lead. Neither team scored again until the third … which is when the Falcons (8-6, 6-4 SOC II) pieced together their biggest inning.
Minford’s Maddie Slusher laced a ball into the outfield and, when it was misplayed, the Falcons sent two runners home to tie the game. Brittani Wolfenbarker then doubled, scoring Slusher, before scoring herself on an RBI groundout via Emily Shoemaker.
The Falcons scored three more times, taking a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the third inning, where Robinson hit her first homer of the evening, cutting the deficit to 7-3.
In the fourth, Minford’s Hannah Tolle made a six-run ballgame with a two-run shot that cleared the center field fence. However, that was the final time the Falcons scored.
After retiring the Falcons in order in the fifth, Hannah Robinson singled to start what was possibly the biggest inning the Tigers have had all year long. Kirsten Blair then walked, giving way for Hailey Robinson to go yard once more, cutting the lead to 9-6.
Suzzy Wall then singled and Amelia Willis walked before Kenzie Penrod laced an RBI single into the outfield. That’s when Smith stepped up and hit her second homer of the night, giving the Tigers a 10-9 lead. They’d make it 11-9 right away when Bellaw, the next batter, went deep.
Minford scored two in the sixth, tying the ballgame, but Hannah Robinson knocked in Smith with one out in the seventh to send Waverly home a winner.
Combined, the teams pounded out 27 hits alongside the 23 runs. The Tigers, however, didn’t help themselves by committing four errors — an area Hayes says they desperately need to clean up.
“Our defense has to get better,” Hayes said. “Credit to Minford, that team hit the [Robinson] twins better than anybody has all year. There’s going to be more teams that are going to be able to do that. But we have to get better on defense. It will help to get healthy but we have to make those plays.”
Smith led the Tigers’ offense, going 4-for-5 with two homers, three runs and four RBIs while Robinson continued that power surge, finishing 3-for-4 with two bombs, three runs and five RBIs. Bellaw ended the night 2-for-5 with the homer and two runs, and Hannah Robinson was 3-for-5 with a run and an RBI.
Minford was led by Tolle, who was 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, three runs and three RBIs while Shoemaker was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Wolfenbarker finished 2-for-5 with three runs, and Tamara Burkett was 2-for-3 with a double and a run.
Waverly next hosts Wheelersburg Friday evening in a pivotal SOC II contest. The Falcons will try and avenge the loss, hosting Piketon on Thursday.
“One of things we’ve talked about since February is trusting the process, pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning, game-by-game,” Hayes said. “I want the girls to focus on just living in the moment. Do we want to beat Wheelersburg? Of course. [‘Burg] has Final Four type talent. But I just want us to compete, live in the moment and be who we are.”