On a day where it felt like nothing was going right for the Pettisville softball team, the Blackbirds were able to come through in the clutch in the sixth – thanks to a two-run double by senior Kyra Behnfeldt – to knock off Fayette 6-5 in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Pettisville Monday afternoon.
“There are several times we could have thrown in our hats and said ‘that’s it,” Pettisville coach Kendra Stahl said of battling back to get the win. “I tried to keep them motivated. I tried to encourage them. Our seniors – I heard them every inning on the bench. They were talking to each other and encouraging each other. They never gave up. They know what’s at stake here.
“I was hoping it would be to our benefit not seeing Fayette yet, and playing them for the first time in the tournament,” Stahl added about not playing the league and county rival before the tournament, which is an oddity. “I don’t know if we had a preconceived idea in our heads or not. They were able to not give up and for any tight game it’s one hit away.”
The Blackbirds trailed the entire game, but one good inning reversed their fortunes. Mackenzie Morgan drew a walk, then Elise Hartzler reached on a bunt. A groundout moved the runners to second and third base.
“Our lineup consistently hasn’t been the same,” mentioned Stahl. “I even shuffled it again tonight. That leadoff walk never works for anybody, so I was hoping that would work in our favor.”
From there, Behnfeldt did the rest. She knocked a ball down to leftfield to score the two runners and put Pettisville ahead by what turned out to be the final count of 6-5.
“It was a pressure time, not just for me but the team,” the senior pitcher said of stepping into a clutch situation. “I just had to relax. Our whole team seemed a little tense. We were really focusing on relaxing and doing on what we do best and playing softball.”
“(It) was a tough loss, we were up on them the whole game,” Fayette coach Chad Lavinder said of the battle. “For being as young and we are, they battled. I was happy with them.”
Fayette took advantage of some Pettisville miscues early on to score three runs without the use of a hit. Dakota Blosser reached on a dropped third strike to start the game, then she advanced two bases on pitches in the dirt. Jensyn Robinson followed with a walk, and she took second.
Both Blosser and Robinson scored on wild pitches as Fayette took an early 2-0 lead.
“We’ve had that happen to us a lot,” stated Lavinder about the opening frame. “It was nice to have it come our way. The girls deserved to have something bounce their way a couple times. We scored three runs on no hits. It’s happened to us big time, a lot.”
Before the top of the first inning was over Kyla Berg – who drew a walk – scored from first base after an errant throw on a dropped third strike. The Eagles also made the last out of the inning on a play at the plate after a pitch in the dirt.
“We gave them four outs in that first inning,” stated Stahl. “They scored three runs that should have never happened.”
Pettisville cut into the lead with a RBI groundout by Brittney Sauder, but Fayette got the run back in the top of the second on another wild pitch.
The Blackbirds trimmed the lead down to a run thanks to smart baserunning in the bottom of the fourth. With Kenzie Rivera at second base, Hartzler hit a roller to first. Hartzler hustled and beat the Fayette defense to the base, and with nobody watching the runner, Rivera scored from second on the play. Hartzler added another run to make the score 4-3 when she scored on a single to right by Kaylee Grimm.
Robinson again moved around the bases on wild pitches to score a run in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, Pettisville trimmed the lead to 5-4 when a double play ended a big threat. With a runner at third, a ball was hit back to Robinson in the circle for Fayette. She started the double play that ended the inning.
“I thought that was going to be our day,” Lavinder said of ending the late chance of Pettisville’s. “I thought our first win was in the sectional. These girls deserve a W.”
Behnfeldt picked up the win in the circle. She allowed two hits, walked five and fanned 16. Robinson took the loss, allowing six hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
Pettisville (5-12) has to wrap up the regular season, plus play at Tinora Thursday for a sectional title.
Reach Randy Roberts at email@example.com