Just call Glenelg this year’s version of the Cardiac Kids. Down one heading into the bottom of the seventh inning Monday, having just watched Hammond score four runs to take the lead, the Gladiators calmly produced two runs of their own to pull out a dramatic 5-4 victory in a battle between two of the county’s final three unbeaten squads.
It was the third time in 10 games that Glenelg (7-0, 10-0) has scored in the seventh inning or later to pull out a victory this season.
“For us it’s a mentality now, dating all the way back to last year,” Glenelg coach Ray Gerstner said. “These girls always come out, no matter what the situation may be, and they’re not willing to give up until that last out.”
Glenelg’s Mandy Bendix, who came in at pitcher in the top of the seventh to stop the bleeding, ended up as the hero. The senior forced a groundout to keep Hammond (5-1, 6-1) from adding any more to its lead before delivering an RBI double to center in the bottom half of the inning to plate the tying run and set up the eventual winning score.
“I think the biggest key in these situations is that we trust our instincts and go back to the basics,” Bendix said. “In that moment, it doesn’t matter who is up there, we feel like we’re going to do whatever we need to do. Today it happened to be me in that spot.”
While heartbroken after watching its comeback bid fall short, Hammond’s fight until the very end was not lost on its coach Brad Speierman. Having failed to put more than one runner on base in any of the first six innings, the Golden Bears erupted for four hits in the seventh — all of which came with two outs.
Caroline Goyne’s single to right that drove in two was the big one, catapulting her team from down one to up one.
“We had been putting the ball in play just had been hitting it right at people, so I pulled them aside before the seventh inning and told them just keep doing what you’re doing,” Speierman said. “And that’s exactly what they did. They went out and scrapped, scrapped, scrapped. I was very proud of the way the girls pulled together.”
But even with all the momentum in favor of the Bears, Glenelg simply wasn’t to be denied.
Morgan Perry led off with a walk and then, after Hammond pitcher Samantha Speierman (10 strikeouts) got a strikeout, Bendix came to the plate. She calmly ripped one off the fence to score pinch-runner Alison Wilcox.
Alison Piwowarski came in to pinch run for Bendix and, during an at bat by Grace Daigle that went to a full count, she took advantage of a couple wild pitches to score the winning run.
Earlier in the game, Glenelg had gotten all of its three other runs in the fourth inning. A lead-off infield single by Leah Allen, followed by a stolen base and wild pitch set up the first run on a hard hit to shortstop by Marissa Saglimbeni. Then, later in the inning, Morgan Perry and Brooke Redmond each delivered RBI hits to make it 3-0.
Other than the two rough frames, Samantha Speierman was incredibly strong in the circle for Hammond. She stranded runners at third base in each of the first two innings and later put together three 1-2-3 innings.
Colleen Regan was also rolling for the majority of the game for the Gladiators. She scattered four hits, a walk and a hit batter in the first six innings to go with three strikeouts. Hammond never managed to get more than one runner on base in any inning prior to the seventh.
But that final frame was when the Bears finally put it together.
In its portion of the seventh inning, Hammond got a walk from Emily Dowdall with one out to turn the line-up over. But there were still two outs when Samantha Speierman came up.
Her single up the middle, however, broke the seal for the Bears first run of the game. Emily Speierman (2-4) and Jill Purdy (2-4) followed with back-to-back singles to make it 3-2. Then, following a walk by Keyuana Griffin, Goyne came up and delivered a looping single to right to put Hammond ahead for the first time.
“It was a little bit of a snowball effect and I thought a lot of that had to do with momentum — they’re a good team, that’s coached well and disciplined at the plate so that’s going to happen sometimes,” Gerstner said.
Bendix relieved Regan after Goyne’s hit and, after a walk to load the bases, induced a ground ball to get out of the inning. Down one, Glenelg’s offense did the rest.
Hammond doesn’t have much time to reflect on the loss, facing a game against the county’s other undefeated team, River Hill, on Tuesday.