SHELBY - In the moments after his team had secured a 10-7 victory in Tuesday's sectional semifinals against Mansfield Christian, Seneca East coach Jerry Hassinger met with the Tigers in right field.
"I told the kids, 'Hey, look guys, I think you guys do this on purpose. You want to see what it'll take to get me to drop,'" Hassinger said.
In a game that featured a crazy final three innings and took more than two-and-a-half hours to complete, Seneca East lost a 6-1 lead, cut down a potential go-ahead run in a disputed play at home plate, then pushed across four runs in the eighth to advance to its first district final in about a decade.
Seneca East’s Jessica Enders gets the force out on Mansfield Christian’s Madi?Jackson during a district semifinal Tuesday at?Shelby. Enders had five RBIs in the 10-7 Tiger victory.
The stars for Seneca East were numerous, but a pair stood out. There was Jessica Enders, who had a pair of key singles and drove in five runs, and Rachel Bauman, who gutted out eight innings in the circle for the win.
Bauman finished with seven strikeouts, walking six while allowing 10 hits. She allowed seven runs, five earned.
"I don't know if she was getting tired toward the last couple of innings, because she threw a lot of pitches," Hassinger said. "Or she might have been getting a little frustrated. But if I ask her, she'll never admit it if she is. She's a trooper."
Seneca East 10,
Mansfield Christian 7
Seneca East (16-10): Lauren Sprenger 3-1-0-0; Holly Bordner 2-2-1-0; Samantha Walker 2-2-0-1; Renee Snavely 5-2-2-3; Karrigan Wurts 0-0-0-0; Rachel Bauman 2-0-0-0; Brittany Brooks 0-0-0-0; Kristen Bowerman 3-1-1-1; Marissa Twigg 3-1-2-0; Caitlin Sauers 1-0-0-0; Jessica Enders 4-1-2-5; Cameil Ruffing 5-0-0-0. Totals: 30-10-8-10.
Mansfield Christian (12-10): Aimee McPeek 3-3-3-0; Lexi Falde 3-1-0-0; Mariah Stearns 5-0-1-1; Tamesha Carter 5-0-1-1; Madi Jackson 4-1-2-0; Haley Gray 4-1-1-0; Jordan Maiyer 3-1-1-0; Charlinta Adkins 4-0-1-2; Hope Dials 4-0-0-1. Totals: 35-7-10-5
Seneca East 023 001 04 - 10
Mansfield Christian 001 005 01 - 7
WP - Rachel Bauman. LP - Falde.
2B - Snavely (SE); Stearns (MC).
Bauman was stifling the Flames until the sixth, when Mansfield Christian started the inning with three straight singles to load the bases. The Flames' Charlinta Adkins then ripped a single to left, scoring two runs and making it 6-3.
Moments later, with runners on second and third and no outs, Hope Dials hit a grounder to Enders at second. Enders threw to first to retire Dials. A run scored on the play, but Adkins went too far off third and got stuck in a rundown. She eventually was tagged out.
But with two out and nobody on, the Flames kept the pressure on. Mansfield Christian's Aimee McPeek walked, then Lexi Falde singled. That brought up Mariah Stearns, who hit a screamer to short that Samantha Walker couldn't come up with.
Then came the biggest play of the game.
Tamesha Carter hit a fly ball down the right field line. Seneca East right fielder Caitlin Sauers dropped the ball just as she crossed the right field line. The ball was ruled fair, and the tying run scored. Stearns headed for the plate with the go-ahead run as Sauers tracked down the ball and threw to Enders. Enders threw home to catcher Holly Bordner, who applied the tag to Stearns.
Out. The game remained tied at six.
The call brought an argument from Flames' coach Kelly Taylor.
"Obviously we were in disagreement with the umpire," Taylor said. "We felt like their catcher was down the third base line, blocking the third base line without the ball, which is illegal. She was definitely off the plate three feet, wasn't even near home plate."
Falde, the Flames' pitcher, threw a scoreless seventh. It was up to Bauman to match that in the bottom half.
"I was nervous, and I knew we couldn't give up; the game wasn't over yet," Bauman said. "I kept encouraging my team, and we pulled through."
Bauman allowed a leadoff single, but retired the next three batters without incident.
In the eighth, Falde's control escaped her. She walked Lauren Spenger, hit Bordner, and walked Walker to load the bases with nobody out.
Renee Snavely, who finished with three hits and three RBIs, slapped a ball to left for a base hit, scoring Sprenger for a 7-6 SE lead.
Bauman popped out, but Bowerman walked to score Bordner. Two batters later, with the bases still loaded and two out, Enders batted again.
"I just kinda kept my composure, and said 'one pitch at a time,'" Enders said.
She got a pitch she liked, and sent a single past second to score two more runs.
In the bottom of the inning, Bauman allowed two hits and a run, but fanned two Flames. She struck out Mandi Jackson with runners on second and third to end the game.
Falde took the loss, despite striking out 10 Tigers over eight innings
"She (battles) all the time,"Taylor said.
Seneca East will look to secure its first regional appearance Friday, when it returns to Shelby to play either Buckeye Central or Crestline. Those teams meet today in Shelby.
"It's very exciting, and we had no idea," Enders said when asked if the team had ideas of getting this far.
"We just didn't know how the season would go," Bauman said. "But we're confident."
The Tigers improved to 16-10, marking a 10-game improvement from last season.
"I told the kids here tonight ... 'Look, guys, we've got one more game... we're as far as any Seneca East team has ever gone," Hassinger said. "That's something to work for."