Bottom of the seventh, bases loaded, two outs, down by three runs.
In an ending that youngsters often fantasize about while throwing and batting the ball around in the backyard, Hannah Williams launched a grand slam to give Philomath a 10-9 victory Friday over Sweet Home in a battle for first place in the Oregon West Conference.
Coach Erik Remington admitted that he had a pretty good feeling as Williams walked up to the plate. He wouldn’t want any other player in that situation.
“I did have that feeling because she is our best softball player and she had just been missing; she was putting too much pressure on herself,” Remington said. “I had been waiting all day for her to go to that right side because she’s capable of doing it. She got the pitch I guarantee she was looking for and she put a good swing on it.”
The method in which Philomath won the game was intensified because it completed a torrid and improbable comeback against a very good softball team. Sweet Home had led 9-0 in the top of the fifth inning.
Williams had by her standards been struggling in the earlier innings with a walk, two strikeouts and reaching on an error.
“For me, I was just really struggling because I wanted to hit so bad and I wanted to help my team so bad,” Williams said. “I was putting too much pressure on myself and I finally just talked to my teammates and they got me out of head and she gave me one I could drive and so it worked.”
Yes, it worked in a moment that Williams will remember for the rest of her life.
“We wanted to put pressure on them,” Williams said when asked about the team’s thought process when the Warriors trailed 9-0. “We were just struggling at bat today but luckily our defense picked us up and I feel like we picked each other up, came together and found a way to finish.”
The seventh inning opened with Kylee Galvan reaching on an error. She was forced out at second as the next batter, Kamden Combs, got aboard on a fielder’s choice. Riley Weaver followed with a single and Tasha Varnado worked a walk to load the bases.
After Philomath popped up for the second out, Williams walked up to the plate in a do-or-die situation. The home run sailed out on a 1-2 pitch and Williams was mobbed at home plate by her teammates as they celebrated the completion of a thrilling comeback.
“Obviously, the best thing as a coach is just when your kids don’t give up,” Remington said. “That’s when you know you’re doing things right when your kids can take two avenues — quit and fold or keep competing.”
Sweet Home built its 9-0 lead with three in the first, four in the second and two in the fifth. The Warriors finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth with two runs. Varnado led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on a Reagan Larson double. Amie Russell later hit a two-out double to plate Larson.
Philomath started to make things interesting in the sixth by pulling to within 9-6. The Warriors loaded the bases with singles by Galvan, Combs and Varnado. The next two batters — Larson and Williams — put the ball in play and Sweet Home unsuccessfully threw home on both occasions as Galvan and Combs scored.
Later with two outs, Philomath scored two more runs on a two-out, two-run clutch single to right by Russell.
The Warriors were finally getting some results against Sweet Home pitcher Savannah Hutchins.
“She was working a ton on the outside and our girls struggled to finally make that adjustment,” Remington said. “I’ve always told them I don’t mind the first time through the lineup — taking our notes is what we’re calling it — but by that second, third and possibly fourth at-bat, there are zero excuses on either missing pitches or taking not such good at-bats.”
Philomath followed with the big seventh inning to take sole possession of first place in the Oregon West.
Despite the exciting victory, Remington was disappointed with his team’s latest slow start. The Warriors have gotten themselves into holes several times this season in what he said comes down to one play. Against Sweet Home, for example, an error in the first inning with two outs preceded a two-run single that helped the visitors get off to a positive start.
“We’ve been talking about the one play and the kids are talking about what I’ve been preaching all year — start,” Remington said. “We’ve gotten pretty decent at finishing but let’s go ahead and start and then the finish will take care of itself.”
Williams knows the team needs to come out better in the early innings.
“We get our bats in a lull sometimes and I think it’s because we don’t start but we came through and finished,” she said. “I think it shows that we can do it, we’ve just got to engage and execute early.”
Remington had lineup challenges to overcome with two outfielders missing the game. Starting center fielder Kaili Saathoff was out of town on a band trip and Sydney Bradley was ill. The coach’s solution was to move Weaver from her usual spot at second base into right field and install Kiya Smith at second.
Russell finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Weaver and Varnado both went 2 for 4.
Five players had two hits apiece for the Huskies — Graci Zanona, Sunhee Bitter, Ashtyn Walker, Bailee Hartsook and Samantha Virtue.
Combs threw 116 pitches in a complete-game performance with one walk and six strikeouts. Hutchins went the distance for Sweet Home with three walks and 10 strikeouts while throwing 138 pitches.
Philomath hits the road Monday for a game at Cascade before a home game Wednesday against Sisters, weather permitting.
Philomath 10, Sweet Home 9
Friday at Philomath
SWEET HOME (9-5, 6-2) 340 020 0 — 9 12 3
PHILOMATH (9-6, 6-1) 000 024 4 — 10 11 3
DP—Sweet Home 1. LOB—Sweet Home 7, Philomath 7. 2B—Larson, Russell. HR—Williams.
Sweet Home 10, Philomath 6
Friday at Philomath
Team notes: Philomath’s JV goes to 2-7-1 on the season. ... Jordyn Foster went 3 for 4, including a double, with two RBIs. ... Five players had the team’s five other hits. ... Kylie Barnes and Mackenzie Hiner both saw time in the circle. ... Philomath’s JV is scheduled to play Monday at Cascade.