KIRTLAND—An emotional day for the Kirtland softball team ended with a dramatic 5-4 8-inning win over visiting Garrettsville Garfield in a Division III sectional championship game.
Sophomore Lindsay Ward appeared in the lineup for the first time this season after suffering a torn ACL injury during the fall soccer season. She hit a solo home run in her second at bat and finished the game 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Kirtland coach Tony Scibelli originally planned to use her as a pinch hitter but wisely opted to insert her into the starting lineup.
“We were trying to ease her back into it,” Scibelli said. “I was going to pinch hit her today and then I’m doing the lineup and I’m like, ‘Why?’ so I just threw her in at sixth. I’m sure she’ll be moving up next week. She just adds so much to the lineup. It’s hard to find kids who can hit the ball 300 feet.”
Her presence also inspired her sister, Hallie Ward, to step up in a big way for the Hornets. She finished the game 4-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and she knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
“It’s awesome,” Hallie Ward said of having her sister back in the lineup. “I missed her so much. I played catch with her every single game and we hit off the tee together. She’s my best friend. It was really hard watching her just in pain.”
Hallie Ward came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth with the game tied 4-4 and runners at first and third with one out. She singled to score pinch runner Lauren Briggs.
“That was awesome,” she said. “I was just thinking I have to make contact and put the ball in play so we can get our runners in whether it was in the air or on the ground.”
Scibelli couldn’t have imagined having any other player at the plate in that situation.
“She’s hitting .720 coming into the game so if you want one person up it’s her,” Scibelli said. “She has the ability to turn singles into triples. We were just trying to get her relaxed and not trying to do too much. When she does that she’s a tough out.”
Garfield, which dropped to 16-9, was robbed of a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when left fielder Cameron Garcia robbed Leah Maxey of a home run.
“That’s one of those plays you’re going to get in a game like this,” Scibelli said. “You’re going to have to have plays like that. That was a big momentum swing for us.”
Hallie Ward then put the Hornets on top, 1-0, in the third inning when she singled with two outs, stole second and scored on Samantha Achauer’s single.
Garfield tied it in the top of the fourth on Taylor Brown’s solo homer to right.
Lindsay Ward, who flew out to left in her first at bat, hammered a solo shot to centerfield in the bottom of the fourth to push Kirtland back out in front, 2-1.
“My first one was pretty bad so it felt good coming off the bat,” she said. “It’s great. The first thing I heard was my team behind me. It was amazing.”
Again the G-Men responded.
Callie Pfile drew a leadoff walk and Ashley Kaiser, Maddie Geddes and Hailey Damko hit back-to-back singles to give the G-Men their first lead, 3-2.
It didn’t last long.
Hallie Ward tripled with one out and Achauer doubled to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth.
The Hornets had an opportunity to take the lead in the sixth when Hallie Ward drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Achauer’s sacrifice bunt and to third when Olivia Mancisio reached on an error. Kirtland wasn’t able to push across the go-ahead run.
Back-to-back singles gave Garfield a 4-3 lead in the eighth but the Hornets came back in the bottom half of the inning and this time they executed their game plan to perfection.
Lindsay Ward started off the inning with a single and Morgan Faber walked to put runners at first and second with no outs. Rebecca Kissinger then laid down a perfect bunt and Ward scored on an overthrow to first base.
After the G-Men got the first out of the inning Hallie Ward came to the plate and ended the game.
“The big thing about how we turned the season around is we get key contributions at key times,” Scibelli said. “Rebecca lays down the bunt, forces them to make a bad throw and we get a key walk there. It’s the little things. It’s not always pretty and today wasn’t exactly pretty offensively but we get the job done.”
Achauer was 2-for-3 with a double and a sacrifice. Faber picked up the win for the Hornets after allowing four runs on eight hits and she struck out two.
The Hornets, who improved to 14-3, advanced to the Jefferson District where they will play top-seeded Wickliffe on Tuesday. The Blue Devils beat Kirtland, 4-2, in the Hornets’ season opener on March 30.