The Pioneers defeat Redmond in the bottom of the seventh inning to reach the 5A final four
As the Sandy defense took the field in the top of the seventh inning in a tie-game with Redmond on Friday, designated hitter Cheyenne Baker slipped out of the dugout and into the bullpen armed with her bat, a tee and a few balls. She took a few minutes to work in a couple practice swings while her teammates shut down the Redmond offense. Baker was hitless in three at-bats to that point, but wanted to be ready if she got another chance.
That chance came in the bottom of the seventh inning, and she made the most of it.
With one out and third baseman Chelsea Spanier on second, Baker ripped a walk-off double to the gap in left-center to give Sandy a 3-2 victory and a place in the state semifinals.
I was saying to myself, there is no way she is going to beat me. I am going to hit this ball, Baker said. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was through. When Chelsea scored, it was pure joy and happiness. It felt awesome.
Bakers game winner completed a dramatic, come-from-behind performance by the Pioneers. After taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, Sandy relinquished the lead when Redmonds Amanda Cain hit a two-out pop fly to right field. Right fielder Molly Nutt, who made multiple sensational catches in the game, couldnt squeeze this fly ball. Two runs scored on the play, giving the Panthers a 2-1 advantage in the sixth inning.
With elimination staring them in the face, the Pioneers didnt flinch. They didnt tense up at all, but had the demeanor of a team with the lead.
There have been a handful of times this year when we have been behind, and we have come back every time, Sandy coach Kellie Wilkerson said. We know how to come back. I told them it was one run. We know how to score one run. We just had to stay positive. They didnt panic all season, and they didnt panic tonight.
In the bottom of the sixth, Sandy second baseman Presley Turin fouled off four two-strike pitches before lacing a single to center field. Pitcher Sammie Byron moved Turin up with her second single of the game. Pinch-hitter Raquel Pellecer drew a two-out walk to load the bases for Meghan Luebbert, who also walked to force in the tying run.
The Pioneers kept Redmond off the scoreboard in the seventh by retiring the Panthers in order. Spanier led off the bottom of the seventh inning by smashing a double to the alley in right-center, setting the stage for Bakers heroics.
Redmond is a great team, and it was great to fight for a win like that, Wilkerson said. I never doubted our team because of their fight.
Lost in the drama was Byrons performance on the mound. She allowed four hits and no earned runs while striking out six batters in her complete game win. At the plate, Byron was the only Pioneer with more than one hit.
Sandy reached the semifinals for the first time in school history by prevailing against Redmond. The Pioneers hosted West Albany on Tuesday evening for the right to play in Saturdays state championship game.