RISINGSUN One couldn't blame him.
Had anyone else been in Lakota coach Chris Chalfin's shoes, he or she would have done the same thing.
Even his counterpart in the other dugout, New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger, said he would have done likewise.
So when New Riegel's Taylor Kirian strolled to the plate with one out in the top of the seventh and Lakota leading 7-6, Chalfin didn't have to think about it at all. First base was open, the tying run was at second base and Kirian had already slugged two homers on the day. He wasn't going to give her a third opportunity.
Walking the No. 3 hitter in a lineup to get to the No. 4 isn't always ideal but New Riegel's Brooke Scherger was 0 for 3 on three infield pop-ups.
The senior sent Abby Durst's offering skyward again, but this one didn't look like the other three pop-ups she had earlier in the game. This one resembled Kirian's fly balls from earlier in the game: the kind that cleared the outfield fence.
Scherger sent a three-run shot over the left center fence, putting New Riegel back in front for a good in a 9-8 victory that knocked out Lakota out of the three-way tie for first place in the Midland Athletic League, leaving only the Blue Jackets and Mohawk to share the crown at 10-1.
"I was getting pretty fed up not being able to hit today so once they (walked Kirian), I let my anger out and I just wanted to go for a base hit and over the fence works for me," said Scherger, who will play softball at the University of Findlay next year. "It meant a lot to us seniors to go out with a win."
Scherger had only hit one other homer this year, but Lininger wasn't surprised by the jolt.
"I walked up to her and told her 'Don't you think that's a little disrespectful to walk the No. 3 batter to get to the No. 4. Just get up there and hit the ball.' And wow. I about started crying when she's rounding third base," said Lininger, fighting back tears as he relived the moment. "She means so much to this team. ... She's a great, great kid. To see her do that in her last ever at-bat in a New Riegel uniform is (incredible). "
Chalfin had considered walking Scherger as well to load the bases and put the pressure on some of her younger teammates to deliver in the clutch.
"The funny thing is right before I called that pitch, we were talking about walking her too," Chalfin said. "We thought about loading them up and getting the force at home. Then the next girl got a base hit too. So they were going to score runs that inning. It was just a matter of how many."
Lininger said Kirian is the best hitter in the league if not beyond.
"I wouldn't have let her hit against us (if the tables were turned in that situation)," he said. "She's the best hitter in the league, maybe in Ohio. She's good."
The game had an amplified tournament feel to it because not only was it for a share of the league crown, both teams were upset this week in district tournament play.
"It definitely affected today," Chalfin said. "Both teams are coming off disappointing losses and had aspirations of going farther in the tournament. That's always an emotional letdown."
There was no letdown in the hitting department to be sure as the two teams combined for 18 hits.
"For these kids to finish on a high note, after what happened on Wednesday night. We had big expectations. It's pretty obvious how good a team we are," Lininger said. "Our losses this year, we just couldn't hit the ball and had some errors. To come back and win it the way we did when it looked like we were going to blow it. A credit to Lakota, every time you'd feel comfortable, they came back. It was nice to pull it out in the end."
New Riegel (22-5) came out swinging, scoring one in the first on a solo homer by Kirian and four in the second, with Megan Mathias doubling in a run, Sandra Acree and Paige Noftz each singling in another and Acree scoring on a stolen base.
Lakota plated two in the bottom half of the second inning. Jessice Hoffman and Morgan Gangwer each scored on an error by Scherger.
In the third, Lakota (18-8) trimmed it to 5-4 when Morgan Lewis rapped a two-RBI single, scoring Durst and Kaitlyn Baumer, who had doubled and singled, respectively, earlier in the inning.
Things quieted down until the fifth when Kirian tacked on an insurance run with her second homer of the game.
But Lakota rallied again in the sixth, taking advantage of three New Riegel errors.
Gangwer reached on an error by Kirian and one out later, scored on another New Riegel miscue, this time by Acree, which left Sierra Ray safe at first. Nikkia Cooper sacrificed her to second before Alaina Bickford drove her in with a single. Durst also singled but a bobble by Morgan Noftz allowed Bickford to score and Lakota to take a 7-6 lead before New Riegel got out of the inning in the next at-bat.
After New Riegel's epic seventh to retake the lead, 9-7, Lakota had one more shot to come back. Hoffman started of the inning with a charge, a solo blast to center field.
But after that, Kirian (21-5) laid down the side in order. She struck out two on the day and hit a batter.
"You have to laugh. I knew that (homer) was gone and I just had to focus on the next batter," Kirian said of the Hoffman homer. "It was (better that she hit a homer) because I could just act like it didn't happen. We were still up a run and I could start over."
Durst (14-4) finished her day with six strikeouts, a hit batter and two walks.
"It was a great game. They jumped on us early and we never quit," Chalfin said. "We expected it to be close and it should be. We have two of the better teams (in the MAL)."