DAKOTA – For a while, it looked like three base-running gaffes would cost the Milledgeville Missiles a chance to win their third consecutive sectional championship.
Funny how things balance out. Baserunning ended up securing a third straight plaque for the Missiles on Saturday.
Milledgeville scored four times without the benefit of an RBI hit in the 10th inning, beating Orangeville 10-6 in the Class 1A Dakota Sectional final.
“I can’t even describe what just happened,” said Milledgeville senior Kelsey Hayen, who had three hits and two RBIs. “There were a few times in that [10th] inning where you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, what are we doing?’ But we run the bases aggressively, and we got the job done when it counted.”
That aggressiveness nearly cost the Missiles (25-3) dearly. Orange-ville second baseman Tori Clark turned two unassisted double plays on line drives, and a caught stealing denied the Missiles’ potential two-out rally in the top of the first inning.
But their persistence paid off. With the game tied 6-6, Emily Bush led off the 10th with her third single of the game, then courtesy runner Shannon Graff was forced out on Courtney Swalve’s fielder’s choice. Morgan Adolph, who earlier hit a two-run homer, was intentionally walked after courtesy runner Jenna Bibler stole second. Kayleigh Leddy then laid down a bunt single to load the bases.
That’s when things got weird. On the first pitch to Hayen, Leddy took off for second, trying to draw a throw from Orangeville catcher Lindsey Robieson. Instead, Robieson took a few steps toward Leddy, then turned her attention to Bibler, who was halfway down the line toward home plate.
“I kind of screwed things up there,” Mill-edgeville coach Brad Grenoble said. “I had told Jenna to be aggressive, and if they threw the ball to get Kayleigh, that she should keep going home. Then, they didn’t throw, and I was telling her to come back to third.”
But Adolph had taken third as soon as Bibler got caught in the rundown. With Adolph unable to go back to second, thanks to Leddy taking that base, the only thing left for Bibler to do was try and score.
After three throws, Bibler made an all-out sprint toward home plate. The fourth throw of the rundown went home, but Bibler’s foot hit the plate before the tag got her in the chest, giving the Missiles a 7-6 lead, thanks to a delayed steal of home.
“I knew Kayleigh started toward second on purpose, but they figured it out right away,” Bibler said. “I heard Coach yelling for me to come back to third, but I looked back and Morgan was already standing there. I just turned and got in the pickle, then saw a chance to sprint home.
“I saw the ball hit the Orangeville girl’s glove, and I thought the ump was going to call me out. But he signaled safe, and I was relieved and excited all at the same time.”
The run not only broke the tie, but seemed to break the Broncos’ spirit. Hayen hit a grounder to short to drive in Adolph, but the throw to third to try and get Leddy was late; Hayen took second on the play. Liz Bryant laid down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw from the catcher to third to try and get the retreating Leddy sailed high, allowing Leddy to score.
Brey Henson lifted a sac fly to center to plate Hayen to cap the rally.
Milledgeville, which saw 2-0 and 6-5 leads disappear, made sure it wouldn’t happen again. Bush, who got stronger in the circle as the game went on, set down the Broncos 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 10th – the fifth time she did so in the game, and third in the final four innings – to set off a wild celebration.
Bush allowed four earned runs and eight hits, striking out 16 and walking two. She allowed just one baserunner after the sixth inning, and threw 107 of her 162 pitches for strikes.
“It was definitely an emotional roller-coaster,” Bush said, “but we’ve all played enough softball to keep our cool and stay calm.”
It’s tough when they’re hitting your pitching, but I’m so fortunate to have such great teammates who will back me up on both offense and defense, and find a way to get the job done.”
“Emily pulled everybody together [after the third inning] and said, ‘This isn’t over, we’ve scored seven, eight, nine runs in an inning before, and we’ve got three innings left,’” Grenoble added. “Then she went out and put us on her back over the last few innings, and made sure we had plenty of chances to win in extra innings.”
The Missiles struck first, thanks to Taylor Grenoble’s two-out, two-run single in the third. But Orangeville answered in the bottom of the frame, thanks to Clark’s two-out, two-run single, a Milledgeville error, and Crystal Rote’s RBI base hit.
Milledgeville got the momentum back in the top of the sixth, as Swalve ripped an RBI double, Adolph swatted a tying two-run homer, and Hayen followed Leddy’s double with a run-scoring single.
But the Broncos again immediately responded. Sammantha Buss singled with one out, stole second on a bang-bang play on Swalve’s throw, then avoided Swalve’s tag near home plate on Miranda Rodebaugh’s two-out single to center to tie the score.
“We gave them a run for their money,” Clark said, “but they’re a really tough team with that offense and Bush’s pitching. We kept our heads up and tried to stay positive, but it just wasn’t our day in the end.”
Class 1A Dakota Sectional final
Milledgeville 10, Orangeville 6, 10 inn.
Star of the game: Emily Bush, Milledgeville, CG, 107 strikes in 162 pitches, 4 ER, 8 H, 16 SO, 2 BB; also went 3-for-3 at the plate
Key performers: Kelsey Hayen, Milledgeville, 3-for-5, 2 RBIs, run; Morgan Adolph, Milledgeville, 2-run HR; Taylor Grenoble, 2-run single; Tori Clark, Orangeville, 2-riun single, turned 2 unassisted double plays; Miranda Rodebaugh, Orangeville, 2-for-4, RBI, 2 runs
Up next: Class 1A DeKalb Supersectional, Milledgeville vs. Putnam County, 11 a.m. Monday