Stepping to the plate with two runners on, two outs and down a run against Mt. Hebron in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday in the 3A East region final, no one would have blamed River Hill's Courtney Colosimo for being a little nervous.
After all, the Hawks' season and shot at advancing to the state final four for the first time in program history was hanging in the balance.
But Colosimo, one of seven sophomores on River Hill's roster, says nerves and pressure were the last things on her mind.
"Honestly, I was excited," said Colosimo, who was still searching for her first hit of the afternoon heading into that at bat in the seventh. "Being able to go up there, with a chance to win the game, that's exactly where I wanted to be. Those are my favorite moments."
Seizing the opportunity, Colosimo ripped a hard-hit ball down the right field line that dropped in and plated two Hawks' runners - sophomores Kinsey Johnson and Kallan Dirmeyer - for a walk-off, 6-5, victory that brought River Hill's bench spilling onto the field.
"We've been talking to them all season about how the game is never over until that final out is recorded," said River Hill coach Marni Rosenbaum, whose team has now won all three of its games this postseason courtesy of comebacks in the sixth inning or later. "This team is never out of it and that is a credit to them.
"Defensively, offensively they made all the little plays you need to at the end in order to win a game like this."
With the win, River Hill advances into a 3A state semifinal match-up with five-time defending state-champion Northern on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Bachman Sports Complex.
Earning that meeting with the Patriots, though, first took ending a 13-game winning streak by visiting Mt. Hebron in the regional championship.
River Hill certainly got off to a good start against the Vikings, putting four runs up on the board right away in the bottom of the first inning. The Hawks had four singles in the frame, jump-started by Kat Varga picking up a lead-off hit.
Johnson, Sabrina Curtiss and Caroline Hickey each had RBI hits as part of building the lead.
"Those were big runs, but I knew it was far from over," Rosenbaum said. "The way they can hit the ball, there was still a lot of game left to play."
Initially, Curtiss did a great job in the pitching circle for River Hill at limiting Mt. Hebron's offense. Through the first five innings, she racked up five strikeouts and allowed just one run.
Mt. Hebron was getting runners on base, at least one in four of the first five innings, but mistakes on the base paths, clutch defensive plays by River Hill and Curtiss' composure kept the Hawks in control.
However, in the sixth inning, the Vikings began figuring things out.
Singles by Aaliyah Montague-Bass, Erin Vogan (RBI) and Rachel Cadigan got things going to produce one run. The big hit then came from Anna Sutherland, whose double scored two and tied the game at 4-4.
"We were hitting the ball all along, so I knew the runs were coming … if not for a few base-running blunders we probably would have had a couple more runs in those first few innings,"Mt. Hebron coach Chuck Struhar said. "We just had to keep doing what we were doing and that's exactly what we did."
River Hill failed to score in the bottom of the sixth and then Mt. Hebron came up in the top of seventh and took its first lead of the game. Bridgette Vogan led off with a walk, was moved over on a single by Evvie Buehlman and then scored on a single by Maddie Bennett.
River Hill relief pitcher Kristy Selby limited the damage to just that one run, though, as she fielded a ground ball and then delivered a strikeout to get out of the inning.
In River Hill's half of the seventh, Johnson came up with one out and started the rally with a seeing-eye single up the middle for her third hit of the day.
"My mindset was just see the ball and make contact … we needed base runners," Johnson said. "I have so much faith in every girl on this team right now. I knew me getting on base was the first step and then someone was going to make a play because that's how it's been this entire playoffs."
After Johnson reached, a ground out by Sara Mascone created two outs. That brought Dirmeyer up and she proceeded to hit a spinning ball off the end of the bat that eluded Buehlman on the mound and resulted in an infield single.
"That little bleeder was the big one … we get that one and the game is over," Struhar said.
But instead of Mt. Hebron getting the final out, River Hill's Colosimo got her chance to be the hero and she didn't waste it.
"I told her and Kallan before they went up for those last two at bats, just relax up there, put the ball in play and something good is going to happen," Rosenbaum said. "They believed in themselves and came through in the clutch."
River Hill 6, Mt. Hebron 5
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