Lady Vikings Beat Swanton and the Odds to Win NWOAL Softball Title
The Evergreen Lady Vikings entered their final league game against the Swanton Lady Bulldogs with an outside chance of capturing a share of the NWOAL Softball Championship, their first since 2013. However, in addition to having to defeat a strong and talented Bulldog team, the Vikes were going to need a major upset of the league-leading Bryan Lady Golden Bears by a sub .500 Archbold team.
Despite the long odds, everything fell into place last Friday afternoon as Bryan, undefeated in league play, dropped a 3-2 decision at Archbold and Evergreen battled from behind in beating Swanton 7-6 in thrilling, come-from-behind, extra-inning fashion. The Lady Vikes certainly did not make it look easy as they found themselves down 5-1 as the Bulldogs offense came out swinging, the big hit being a two-run blast deep over the centerfield fence by Brie Williams.
In the bottom of the fourth, Evergreen loaded the bases with two out for senior catcher Kennedy Keller. Keller worked the count to 3-2 then drilled a line drive into the gap in left centerfield, clearing the bases and pulling the Vikings within 5-4. Not wanting to talk about herself, Keller explained what the clutch hit and the victory meant to her and her teammates. “My team has been planning this since last year when we didn’t have a season. This whole time when we were in quarantine, we had the one goal,” she said. “Now that we’re league champs, we’re going for District champs. We’re not done yet.”
Evergreen managed to tie the game at 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning and went into the bottom of the seventh with a chance to win in regulation. Swanton’s Taylor Forrest, pitching in relief, set down the first two batters then intentionally walked freshman phenom Macy Chamberlin, arguably the most dangerous hitter in the area. The walk was followed by a ground ball out and the teams went to extra innings.
In the top of the eight inning, the Bulldogs took the lead when Rachel Waszak drove her fourth hit of the game up the middle, scoring Kailey Brownfield from second base to put Swanton up 6-5. The Vikings came right back in the bottom half of the eight when Jocelyn Schuster singled and Skylee Raker doubled to put the winning run on second base. Schuster then scored on a slow roller to tie the game while Raker was thrown out at the plate while trying to score right behind her.
Evergreen was able to get another runner to second base and put in pinch runner Shelby Moore who the managed to proceed on to third, just 60 feet away from home. After a failed bunt attempt, Brooklyn Richardson hit a short ground ball towards third base and Moore raced home for the score, the win and a share of the NWOAL title.
“We came in hoping to put up a lot of numbers early. We didn’t do that. The top of our lineup kind of struggled. They (Swanton) have a good pitcher, two good pitchers, actually,” said Evergreen coach Matt Keller breaking down the game. “We got a lot of help from the bottom of our lineup. Kennedy came up and got us back in the game. She came up big for us. We got some timely hits and being able to tie it up in the sixth inning with some aggressive base running was huge.”
Obviously, the victory and the league title were a great way to end the regular season, especially for the four seniors Keller, Breanna Huffman, Lexie Thibodeaux and Riley Lumbrezer. “We’ve come back in so many big games this year. We won against Archbold with a walk-off. I had no doubts. I knew our offense would do it,” said Huffman, the Vikings pitcher. “I didn’t throw my best game and I got down on myself but honestly, I just relied on my defense. I trust my defense.”
The Evergreen Lady Vikings will now take on the Delta Lady Panthers in the first game of the Sectional Tournament on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. at home.
Pictured: Shelby Moore scores the winning run in the bottom of the eight inning.
Great write up and awesome picture!