VINCENT — On the turn of a dime, Warren’s momentum quickly shifted across the white lines and fell in favor of Gallia Academy in a Division II, sectional semifinal Monday afternoon at Warren High School.
Trailing 3-1 in their last turn at bat, the Blue Angels erupted for five runs and defeated the Warriors 6-3. Gallia Academy’s four hits in the final inning matched its total output through the first six innings.
Warren graduated seven seniors from a ballclub which closed out the season at 9-8.
“The girls fought through seven hard innings,” Warren coach Katie Dickson said. “This senior group have been hard-nosed. They are full of heart, but they are guarded. They are so hard on themselves to be individual competitors — and that’s one thing I’ve learned is to make them come together.
“They hold themselves to such a high standard, and one thing we finally learned was to lean on each other.”
Gallia Academy, which improved to 13-9, is no stranger to comebacks. Earlier this season in a tournament played in Kentucky, the Blue Angels rallied from a four-run deficit in their final at bat.
“Our girls never stopped competing,” Gallia Academy coach Mike Burke said. “We have talked about that all year. It doesn’t matter who you play or where you play, go compete and see what can happen.”
The outlook looked favorable for Warren after building a 3-1 lead entering the top of the seventh inning. Starting pitcher Kenzie Nelson had walked just two and struck out three. The only blemish on her line was a solo home run by Taylor Mathie leading off the Gallia Academy second inning.
The Blue Angels quickly shifted the momentum when Mo Meadows opened with a walk followed by consecutive singles from Emma Hammons and Bella Barnette.
After Bree Cemini sacrifice fly and Colbie Nida’s RBI single, Warren trailed 4-3.
The deficit was manageable, especially after Warren reliever Liv Pierson induced an infield fly out. Warren appeared to get out of any further damage when third baseman Ella McFarland tagged the runner coming from second base for what appeared to be the third out.
Instead, the base umpire called the fielder for obstruction to keep the inning alive for Gallia Academy. The ninth batter of the inning, Grace Truance then delivered a two-run double to extend the gap to 6-3.
“They timed up our pitching — I think that’s what it came down to,” Dickson said. “Our defense was still there, but their bats found some gaps and ours didn’t.”
Barnette, who entered the game in relief in the top of the third inning, retired the first two batters she faced in Warren’s half of the seventh then intentionally walked Olivia Congleton, who homered in her previous at bat.
An infield grounder to the first baseman secured the comeback for the Blue Angels and made a winner of Barnette, who allowed just one run and stuck out four in five innings of work.
“(Bella) came in and put the hammer down,” Burke said. “Other than one at bat by their catcher, who is an absolute stud, we probably should have walked her then. I can’t say enough about what,” (Bella) did. “She absolutely shut them down other than one single run.”
The only other offense Warren could muster occurred in a two-run second inning off Mathie, who started for Gallia Academy and lasted two innings. Congleton, Allison Glover and Geneva Cech led off the second inning with a single. Congleton scored from third base when a pickoff throw went wild. Glover put Warren in front 2-1, scoring when Ella McFarland reached on a fielding error.
Contact Kerry Patrick at [email protected]