AVON LAKE — If you like a little controversy with your postseason matchups, then the Division I district semifinal between Elyria and Avon on Tuesday night might have been the game of the year.
The No. 2-seeded Pioneers were rolling along in dominating fashion before No. 3 Avon tied the game with a big sixth inning. Elyria won 4-3 in a weird walk-off in the seventh.
With runners on second and third and nobody out, Jessica Chapman hit a soft liner toward second base. Avon second baseman Taylor Graham ran down the ball just past second, then turned and threw home, but Jaylah Howard had already crossed the plate to set off a wild celebration by the Pioneers players.
While Elyria was rejoicing, the Avon coaches yelled for the players to appeal at third. The Eagles did, and Howard was called out for leaving the base early. Avon then went and tagged second base and Adrian Petrisko was also called out, completing an improbable triple play that was going to send the game into extra innings.
But the umpires huddled, broke and called Petrisko safe at home for the winning run.
“Flashbacks to two years ago in the state final,” said Elyria assistant coach John Wallace, who was standing in for injured head coach Ken Fenik. “Honestly I thought I was golden when I told the runner to go because I thought it was in her glove already. I probably should’ve called a squeeze in that scenario, but the batter was yelling at me to let her hit so we thought we’d give it a shot with no outs. Once they ruled (Howard) out on appeal, I yelled for (Petrisko) to tag anyway and she just kept going because she thought we had won the game, and thank God she touched home plate.”
But several videos of the final play showed Petrisko didn’t go near home plate, instead joining her teammates in the celebration scrum between home and third. Social media postgame discussions said Petrisko should have been called out when she made contact with another player, or when she left the field of play, or that she should have been sent back to second after the appeal was successful at third.
Regardless, according to OHSAA Bylaw 8-3-1, the organization “does NOT permit Protested Games” during postseason play. A misinterpreted or misapplied rule would have had to be rectified on the field at the time it occurred, so an Avon appeal appears unlikely.
“I just told the girls to believe in themselves and never give up. That’s life,” said Avon coach Ken Matuszak, who didn’t want to comment on the controversial ending. “They played tough, our girls fought the whole time. We kept making little adjustments every inning on Izzie, she’s a great pitcher.”
Elyria’s Izzie St. Peter had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning, and was backed by three early runs.
Petrisko singled, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball before scoring on a Chapman sacrifice fly in the first, and Damia Parks followed with a solo home run over the left-field fence. In the third inning, Madison Olszewski doubled to right field to score Parks.
“I just wanted to hit the ball and I realized I had to calm down and I just let it flow,” Parks said of her homer.
St. Peter’s no-hitter was broken up when Jessie Dean placed a bloop single right behind third base. Ashlee Torbert followed with a two-run double to left-center — Kaitlyn Huff had walked before Dean’s hit — and Kayla Dykin’s single to left tied the game.
“We were all nervous, of course, but when we all come together we build each other up and feed off each other’s energy for sure,” Parks said. “We picked each other up and did what we had to do.”
The start of it was St. Peter shutting down Avon in the top of the seventh inning, then leading off Elyria’s seventh with a double that dropped behind the right fielder. St. Peter was then lifted for Howard.
“She was flirting with 100 pitches, so to still have that control and tenacity and to come out and finish the seventh inning, then have the leadoff double in the seventh inning … she’s a gamer,” Wallace said. “I’ll take that effort any day of the week.”
Wallace said the players said “Win it for Fenik” during a team huddle before the seventh. The Pioneers will face top-seeded Amherst on Thursday for the district title for the fourth straight season.
“We’re in a great position because all the pressure’s on them, being ranked in the state,” Wallace said. “Maybe we can try and be a giant killer, but that’s a very good team. One through nine can hurt you and they’re going to do their damage. It’s an uphill task for sure.”