Hoover rallies past Wayne 3-2
FALLING ROCK, W.Va. -- Herbert Hoover's Amber Oaks helped her teammates and herself put Wayne in the rear-view mirror - if only for a few weeks.
The senior gave the host Huskies the lead for good with a run-scoring groundout in the bottom of the fifth inning and sophomore pitcher Allison Rager worked out of trouble in the sixth and seventh for a 3-2 come-from-behind victory Wednesday evening to sweep the season series against the Pioneers.
A crowd of about 120 attended the matchup of Class AA state-ranked teams at Michael D. Chandler Field. Hoover opened the season with a 2-1 win at defending state champion Wayne.
Oaks and the Huskies have taken huge strides to erase the memory of the Pioneers eliminating them 4-3 in last year's regional finals with the help of Oaks' throwing error that let in what proved to be the winning run in the fifth.
"I threw it over third base and let the girl score,'' said Oaks matter-of-factly after Wednesday's triumph. "I'm working hard to make corrections and not make those errors again. I'm real excited that we have this win. This is my last chance against them.''
Oaks probably thought she was having flashbacks Wednesday when she dropped an on-target throw from Rager in the first inning for the first of two errors that led to Wayne taking a 2-0 lead.
This time, though, the Huskies first baseman atoned for her miscue after getting a second chance at the plate in the fifth. It appeared Oaks coaxed a walk to load the bases with one out, but the home plate and base umpire conferred and Oaks was called back to the batters' box after they decided the count was 3-2.
Oaks sent the next pitch to the first-base side of second, allowing junior McKenzie Edmonds, who started the frame with a lead-off single, to scurry home for a 3-2 edge for Hoover (9-2), which was No. 1 in this week's state sports writers' poll.
"Personally, my batting average hasn't been that great this season, but it's coming up and it feels great to be able to hit the ball and contribute to the team,'' Oaks said. "I love that I can help the team out in any way that I can.''
Hoover had to sweat out the last two innings against No. 3 Wayne (9-4) before securing the win.
The Pioneers' Kasey Endicott opened the top of the sixth with a walk and Jessie Rowe followed with a single to put runners at first and second with none out. After Emily Thompson sacrificed the pair to third and second, respectively, Rager got Wayne's Tasha Maynard to pop out to third and struck out No. 9 hitter Savannah Perry looking to end the threat.
Rager squirmed out of another jam in the top of the seventh when Wayne's Jessi Watts and Emily Fry started the inning with back-to-back singles. The Pioneers' Jacey Parsons was called out for runner's interference when she ran out of the first-base line and Oaks' throw to Huskies second baseman Caroline Thornburg hit Parsons in the helmet and bounced into right field. Rager then forced Wayne's Payton Fetty to fly out to left field and then fanned Endicott looking to end the game.
"I knew how we responded would tell me a lot about us and I'm pretty proud of them,'' Hoover coach Missy Smith said of her players. "They've got some guts and a little bit of heart about them. It would have been very easy to lie down. They fought back and never gave up.''
Hoover's Zoey Carte knotted the game at 2-all in the bottom of the third, lining a two-out, two-run single into right field.
"Hoover always plays tough,'' said Wayne coach Tish Smith. "We knew it was going to be a one-run game. It's who blinks first. We look forward to that. We like it. We're doing what we need to do and we're right on track, working out the little bugs so we'll be ready when it's necessary.''
Carte finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs for the Huskies while Mikayla Craze and Edmonds also rapped out two singles apiece. Edmonds reached base all three at-bats and scored two runs. Rager, who allowed Wayne to get its leadoff hitter on all seven times but stranded nine, scattered six hits and both runs were unearned while she whiffed seven with one walk.
Watts and Fry singled twice each for Wayne and Rowe allowed three earned runs on eight hits with eight strikeouts and two walks while firing 119 pitches, including 51 in the first two frames.
There was no wild celebration after the Huskies swept the season series from Wayne because everyone knows the goal is to face the Pioneers one more time with a berth to the state tournament on the line. Hoover had defeated Wayne twice in extra innings last year before coming up short in the postseason.
"Hopefully when it matters we can come back and do the same thing we did twice already,'' said Oaks. "We do have a lot of confidence, but at the same time we can't get cocky because we still have to beat them when it matters.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.