CLYDE — The Elyria Pioneers have learned from the errors of their ways.
A year removed from a regional semifinal loss to Perrysburg — on a walk-off error in extra innings — the Pioneers may have been having nightmarish flashbacks when they committed three errors in one inning — two on one play — to allow Oregon Clay to take the lead Wednesday night in a Division I regional semifinal.
This time the Pioneers rallied to tie the game, then came up with two runs in the ninth inning for a 4-2 victory.
“We were playing on a sandbox out there, it was slippery, but both teams had to do it,” Elyria coach Ken Fenik said.
“We could have just right away packed it in. That could have been a huge inning. I went out there and talked to them, I told them, ‘If we can’t score a couple runs guys, we don’t belong here anyway.’”
The Pioneers will play Perrysburg on Saturday at noon for the regional championship and a chance to compete in its 13th state tournament.
Elyria (23-5) took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning when Adrian Petrisko led off with an infield single, advanced to second on Jessica Chapman’s sacrifice bunt, moved to third on Maycee Godbolt’s bloop single to shallow center and scored on Damia Parks’ sacrifice fly to center.
Clay (21-7) picked up two unearned runs in the third without a hit. Madison Yanez earned a one-out walk, Tori Gallaher reached on a fielding error and both scored on Kennedy Slovak’s comebacker to Elyria pitcher Izzie St. Peter, who threw past first base to allow the first run to come home before Parks threw the ball past the catcher to allow the second run to score.
“My team came to me and cheered me up a little, and it picked me up so that I could go back and pitch again to the next batter,” St. Peter said.
The pep talk worked, as St. Peter settled down and got out of several jams down the stretch. She was also responsible for pulling the Pioneers even in the fifth inning.
Mallory Phares hit a one-out single to left field and later scored on St. Peter’s two-out single to right.
“I’ve been working on my hitting a lot, and trying to score my runners when they’re in scoring position,” St. Peter said.
The game remained tied, despite several solid scoring opportunities on each side, until the ninth inning.
Phares started Elyria’s rally with a one-out single to right field before Jaylah Howard reached on a fielding error, allowing Phares to advance to third. Howard stole second and St. Peter was walked to load the bases, bringing up Petrisko, who calmly cracked a sharp single to center field to bring home the go-ahead run.
“I know I wasn’t doing so hot in the game, and I knew I needed to pull through for my team,” Petrisko said. “I just kind of kept my head on straight and I knew I could get on, and that’s what I did. I couldn’t really believe it, honestly, but I was hyped.”
Two batters later, Godbolt added an insurance run with a line drive that hit shortstop Slovak in the ribs.
The Pioneers banged out 11 hits, with Phares going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.
“I knew that we were going to be seeing not that fast of a pitcher and I knew she was going to be pitching a lot of outside, so I just focused on taking the ball that way and just taking my hands to the ball and just making contact for a base hit,” Phares said. “Our team, we just have so much fight and energy throughout every inning and every at-bat. I just love my team so much, they just come through all the time.”
All 11 Elyria hits were singles, a fact Clay coach Brenda Radabaugh was pretty happy about.
“I think our pitcher threw phenomenal today,” she said of Brianna Pawlaczyk. “They didn’t have any long balls on us, they weren’t drilling balls in the gap. She just did an awesome job of keeping them off balance.”
After playing 19 innings in the last two regional semifinals with both games coming down to some high-drama finishes, Fenik admitted the anxiety levels grew as the game continued.
“I’m exhausted and I know (the players) must be,” he said. “Both teams had a bunch of opportunities. It’s heartbreaking for the team that doesn’t get the W … what a war.
“I just love these girls top to bottom. The will power and effort and the passion they play with, that’s what Elyria kids are all about.”