CHARLESTON — Charleston was staring its first loss of the season right in the face with WSS, ranked 10th in Class 1A, up 5-0 going into the bottom of the fourth.
Four innings was plenty of time for the Lady Trojans to come back, though, and they had to do it on two different occasions in the game.
Charleston scored five runs in two innings to tie the game at five in the fifth. WSS responded with a two-run home run in the sixth, but the Lady Trojans scored two more runs, including one with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.
Charleston completed the comeback with a run in the ninth inning, again with two out, to claim the 8-7 win over the Hatchets on Wednesday at Karen Karch Field.
“I hear people say that’s a 1A team, but in central Illinois, it’s a great area for softball and they are living proof of that. I expect to see (WSS) at the state tournament,” Charleston coach Blain Mayhall said. “They gave us everything we wanted, and our girls fought back and found a way to win it. They didn’t stop believing they could come back. It was a great day of softball, both teams played well. I am impressed with WSS and our girls and the way they kept fighting.”
Charleston is 10-0 on the season. WSS falls to 10-2.
Charleston’s Macey McElravy was key in the comeback win. In the fourth inning, she led off with a double and later scored Charleston’s first run of the game. Her three-run home run in the fifth made it a run-one game. In the ninth, she led off and reached on an error, which later proved to be the game-winning run with Olivia Lane running for her.
As good as McElravy’s hitting was, she was a force in the circle. She only pitched two innings this season coming into the game when Mayhall turned to her in relief in the sixth inning. McElravy only allowed one hit in 3 2/3 innings of work and struck out three batters to get the win.
Mayhall said McElravy, who was an all-Apollo Conference pitcher last season, didn’t know if she wanted to pitch this season.
“She’s been down on herself all winter about pitching. She may have punched her ticket to get more innings, whether she wants to or not,” Mayhall said. “If she’s going to look that good, then we gotta use her. I think that will get her a lot of confidence. I am very proud of her for not shutting down and quitting on herself. She’s won 24 games in two years, so it’s never me telling her she’s not a pitcher anymore. I think she proved she can still pitch at this level.”
WSS coach Craig Moffett said it was a frustrating loss.
“It wasn’t for a lack of trying. I am proud of the girls’ effort and hope we learn from it,” Moffett said. “Just some things we want to clean up, some mistakes defensively. They have some good pitching, but we want to keep improving on our at-bats as well. Had a couple of almost-plays on some dives. Just one of those things, physical mistakes do happen, as long we are ready to make the next play.”
WSS took a 1-0 lead in the first when Carson Cole scored on Mackenzi Tabbert’s groundout.
Then with two outs in the third, Lake Land recruit Taylor Rentfro doubled to score Calla Roney for a 2-0 WSS lead.
In the fourth, Mackenzee Reynolds hit an RBI double, and then later with two outs, Megan Schlechte hit a two-run home run for a 5-0 WSS lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, McElravy scored on Haleigh Misner’s groundout to make it 5-1.
Then in the fifth, Olivia Hiltebeitel singled.
“Olivia has been hit for a lot as the flex, and she started all of those rallies and she deserves a lot of credit,” Mayhall said. “She’s great behind the plate with our pitchers, and now she’s starting to put together her bat.”
Lake Land recruit Natalie Gordon reached on a bunt single. McElravy later hit a three-run home run. Then after back-to-back singles with two outs, Kennedy Fellers hit an RBI single to tie the game at 5-5.
Schlechte hit her second two-run home run of the game to put WSS back up 7-5 in the sixth inning.
Besides the two home runs, Schlechte pitched the final two innings of the game.
“She had a great day at the plate. We asked her to come in to pitch, not warmed up, and asked her to battle out of some tough situations,” Moffett said. “Her and Calla both do a nice job in the circle for us.”
In the bottom of the sixth, an error put a runner on second, and Gordon followed with a single to score the runner, Hannah Harpster, to make it 7-6.
Armstrong led off the seventh for Charleston and doubled. Harpster ran for her and went to third on a single by Fellers. Payton Melton laid down a bunt and was out at first, but Harpster was sent home and slid in right before the tag to tie the game at 7-7, sending the game to extra innings as WSS got the third out at third.
Mayhall said he never called the squeeze, so it was a smart decision by Melton to lay down the bunt.
“I didn’t give her a sign at all and I wasn’t expecting it. A lot of credit to Hannah on third to notice that and make a great outside hook slide,” Mayhall said. “That was on Payton’s own. That was a great way to tie the game.”
McElravy reached base to start the ninth because of an error, and Olivia Lane ran for her. Armstrong singled and Misner was intentionally walked to load the bases with no one out. Schlechte struck out the next two batters, and then Dee Campbell’s grounder was bobbled. Lane touched home and Armstrong beat the force-out throw at third, giving Charleston the 8-7 win.
“We talk about putting the ball in play and good things can happen. A lot of credit goes to Ramsey for running as hard as she can to third base,” Mayhall said. “If she doesn’t run hard, dogging when you expect someone to make the play, then we don’t get the winning run. So a lot of credit to her.”