“What a memory she will have for the rest of her life!”
South Adams coach Jessie O’Dell knows that his catcher, Sofia Schwartz, will forever remember the moment she crushed an 0-2 pitch over the fence to score the winning run and beat rival Adams Central 2-1 in the 2A sectional tournament at Manchester.
The decisive moment in the pivotal postseason game came in the bottom of the sixth inning after the Starfires had tied the game in the fifth. Falling behind 0-2, Schwartz hit one over the fence to left field and the South Adams dugout, along with the Starfire fans, erupted.
“How about Sofia Schwartz. I am so happy for her,” said O’Dell. She started the season very slow, but she has really turned it on the last couple of weeks. In her second at bat, she struck out looking and was pretty down. But again, Sofia was resilient, down 0-2 and to hit a HR against your rival to help win the game, what a moment.”
It was a battle of two ace pitchers at the start of the game, with the two opposing hurlers racking up strikeouts and stranding the few runners that reached.
“Both teams made the routine plays look routine,” said the SA coach. “Defensively, it was a clean game. A lot of that is because both pitchers were throwing well.”
Adams Central threw Addie Baker and despite taking the loss, she allowed just three hits.
Gracy Bixler threw the whole game for South Adams, striking out eight.
“Gracy was terrific last night for us,” said O’Dell of his starter, who allowed just six hits. “She was able to throw with good velocity and did a good job of not allowing the AC hitters to get a lot of good barrels on their swings. We can win a lot of big games with pitching like last night. Earlier in the season, Gracy struggled with her command, got behind in counts and gave too many free bases. Tonight she pitched 7 innings and just over 100 pitches. I am very proud of her development over the season.”
The Jets scored first when Athena Schwartz singled and then swiped a base, coming home to score on Baker’s RBI single to center field.
“After AC scored their first run our kids didn’t panic. I thought our players did a great job of sticking with it during the tense and adverse moments of the game,” noted O’Dell.
Baker worked around a couple of walks in the bottom of the third, getting the strikeout of Schwartz mentioned by coach O’Dell.
Bixler did the same in the top of the fifth, walking Jozie Zimmerman and Jenna Cook but getting Maddie Hill to strike out to end the threat.
The Starfires tied the game in the bottom of the inning after a pair of bunts, one a hit by Shea Alberson and the other a sacrifice by Cora Baker, put Alberson on third and in position to score on a passed ball.
The rest was up to Schwartz.
“I thought our speed was a major factor tonight,” said O’Dell. “Macy Pries and Shea Alberson can run. Both of those girls got in positions to score because of their speed and we capitalized when Shea got on with her bunt single. Being able to straight steal Shea and not have to waste a bunt to get her to second was so important. Then Cora had a great bunt and was able to move Shea to third. Shea was able to score on the passed ball to tie the game.”
The Jets did try to mount a comeback in the seventh. Brianna Cook doubled off the fence in center and took third on a sacrifice, but Bekah Patterson made an outstanding play to position herself in a way that prevented Cook from tagging up, firing a strike to Schwartz to hold the runner at bay.
Macy Pries caught a pop up at short to record the final out.
O’Dell was quick to give credit to his opponent for an outstanding season.
“First off, AC is a good team and Coach Blake has done a good job with that program over the years. Their kids always compete at a high level. Whenever we beat AC we know that we had to earn it. Coach Blake always has his teams ready to win.”