PDT Sports Writer
MCDERMOTT — The Waverly Tigers stood two outs away from school history Wednesday afternoon.
But with one swing of the bat, No. 5 Waverly’s chances of the school’s first district softball championship game were put on hold for at least one more season as Courtney Hannah’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning gave No. 1 Fairfield Union an 8-7 win in a Division II Southeast District Semifinal played at Northwest High School. The Falcons came back to score four of the game’s final five runs after Ashley Grow hit a grand slam in the top of the fifth.
“That’s a tough one,” Waverly coach Greg Kritzwiser said. “But they definitely know that we (were) there competing and it just didn’t work out in our favor. When it comes to district time, there’s good teams, you’ve got to rise to the occasion and I thought we played well enough to win the game.”
Fairfield Union started the day’s scoring in the home half of the first with an RBI single from Ashley Buckalew to score Hannah. The Tigers were able to counter in the third thanks to an RBI groundout from Lauren Streitenberger that scored Kayla Riffe and an RBI single from Kelsie Mays to plate Lindsay Ward.
The first home run of the game came in the bottom of the fourth inning when Alexis Woodside slammed a 1-2 offering from Mays over the left field wall for a 4-2 lead. It didn’t take long for Waverly to retaliate.
The fifth started the same way as the previous four innings had for the Tigers, with the leadoff batter reaching first. Whereas the first four frames they had baserunners on via walks off Falcons starter Kirklynn Rossiter, Maki Williams started with an infield single.
“What we do and we’ve done all year, we’re very disciplined hitters,” Kritzwiser said. “I think their pitcher threw like 170-some pitches. That little girl’s arm has got to be ragged right now, it has got to be dead and that’s what our approach is to the plate.”
Ward struck out while Streitenberger walked, Mays singled and Alex Thompson struck out to bring Grow to the plate.
With a 2-2 count, Grow deposited the Rossiter offering over the wall in dead center for her first career high school home run. More importantly, it gave Waverly a 6-4 advantage.
Kritzwiser knew the result when it came off the bat. He admitted he swelled up like a tick and tried to make sure Grow touched all of the bases.
“In a big stage like this, a grand slam, my goodness,” Kritzwiser said. “That’s good stuff.”
Despite Woodside’s sacrifice fly to score Buckalew in the bottom half of the inning, which brought the margin to a single tally, the Tigers added an insurance run in the sixth when Riffe scored on back-to-back wild pitches from Rossiter.
Controversy swirled in the bottom of the sixth as Michaela Criner’s hit to short stop put Riffe and Hannah in a collision course, forcing Amanda Drumm to stay at third instead of scoring, Hannah being called out on runner’s interference and Criner reaching first as a result. Drumm eventually scored on a Buckalew single.
Grow reached on an error in the seventh, guaranteeing Waverly had at least one runner on in every inning, but that was all the damage they could do.
Woodside popped to Riffe to start the seventh, then Mackenzie Jude and Drumm reached on a walk and a single respectively to put runners on second and third with Hannah coming to the plate. In her previous at-bat with the same scenario on the basepaths, Hannah was intentionally walked with first base open in the fourth and Mays was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam.
Hannah drove a 1-0 pitch down the left field line to score Leisha Palmer, running for Jude, and Drumm to end the game. The loss ends the high school careers of Mays, Streitenberger, Sarah Bond, Alex Thompson and Sierra Arnold.
“We’re going to miss them,” Kritzwiser said. “Some how, some way, we’ll reload and start the train again.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Waverly 002 041 0 — 7 6 1
Fairfield Union 100 311 2 — 8 13 2
Waverly — Riffe 1-2 (2 BB, 2 R), Williams 2-3 (SAC, R), Ward 0-4 (R), Streitenberger 0-3 (RBI, R), Mays 2-3 (BB, RBI, R), Grow 1-2 (HR, BB, 4 RBI, R).
Fairfield Union — Hannah 3-4 (BB, 2 RBI, R), Cisco 0-2 (2 SAC), Buckalew 3-3 (BB, 2 RBI, 2 R), Nutter 2-3 (SAC), Blake 1-3 (BB), Woodside (HR, SAC, 4 RBI, R),Jude 0-2 (2 BB, R), Drumm 3-4 (2B, 2 R), Wolfe 0-0 (R), Palmer 0-0 (R).
W — Rossiter (17-9) CG, 7 R, 6 H, 6 K, 4 BB
L — Mays (n/a) CG, 8 R, 13 H, 0 K, 5 BB (1 IBB).
Records — Waverly 16-9; Fairfield Union 19-10.