CROOKSVILLE — That a-way Addy Conaway, and way to go Valley Indians.
That’s because Conaway, with a three-home run in the sixth inning, spearheaded an Indians’ rally at Crooksville on Friday —and ultimately provided the punch for Valley’s 4-3 Division III softball sectional championship triumph over the higher-seeded and host Ceramics.
After the Indians took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, when Taylor Cunningham reached on a leadoff error and scored on a two-out single by Madison Montgomery, the Ceramics sent eight batters to the plate in the fifth —for three earned runs on four hits and a walk off Valley freshman pitcher Emilie Johnson.
However, the Indians —specifically the fellow freshman Conaway — struck with two-out lightning off Crooksville ace pitcher McKenna Headley.
Cunningham and junior Lexi Whitt both singled and set the table for Conaway —who cranked a two-strike opposite-field home run to give Valley a stunning 4-3 advantage.
Then Johnson, who went the distance and kept the Ceramics off-balance in scattering six hits, escaped a sixth-inning jam by inducing a pair of inning-ending fielder’s choices — after a inning-opening groundout and a single by Gracie Peck.
In the seventh, Crooksville’s Lacie O’Neal —whose two-run fifth-frame double broke the 1-1 tie and missed being a home run by mere inches — reached on an one-out error, but Johnson induced two groundouts for the first two outs, then recorded the final out on a popout right back to her.
With the upset win over the seventh-seeded Ceramics, the 18th-seeded, 10-member and senior-less Lady Indians improved to 9-10 —and more importantly advanced to Wednesday’s Division III district semifinals at 12th-seeded Wellston.
The Golden Rockets won a 12-5 sectional final on Friday over 19th-seeded Fairland.
The Ceramics, the Muskingum Valley League’s Small Schools division champion, finished the season at 17-7.
Johnson limited Crooksville to only two walks as well, and struck out three.
She retired the first four Ceramics she saw, before Grace Frame singled and Jaylynn Nelson reached on a fielder’s choice.
But Johnson stranded Nelson, sat down four more Ceramics, and only walked Logyn Chamberlin with two outs in the third before getting the three outs in the fourth amid Valley’s first two errors of the game.
She stranded Headley and Nelson at second and first who reached on those errors, before leaving O’Neal and Frame on the corners in the fifth — with Crooksville taking its 3-1 lead.
Before O’Neal’s double, Chamberlin had walked again —and Headley singled home a run for the 2-1 Ceramic advantage.
But that’s when the Indians’ offense heated up, despite Headley — who went the distance and suffered the pitching loss — striking out 11.
Headley actually retired eight of the first nine Indians she faced, including with six strikeouts, as freshman Karsyn Davis got the initial Indian hit with two outs in the third.
That set up Cunningham and Montgomery combining for the fourth-inning run, followed by three consecutive knocks — and climaxed by Conaway’s shot in the sixth.
Valley — which went down 1-2-3 to Headley in innings one, two and five — got three more seventh-inning baserunners, when Baylee Yarnell singled, Davis walked and Latisha Manchester singled.
The Indians’ district semifinal at Wellston on Wednesday will have a 5 p.m. first pitch at Nancy Kibler Field.
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