Centennial’s seniors celebrated their final home game in style Wednesday afternoon. Down four runs heading into the bottom of the seventh inning against Atholton on senior day, the Eagles sent seven batters to the plate, produced four hits and scored five times to earn a 5-4 victory in walk-off fashion.
The winning run for Centennial (6-8, 7-9-1) fittingly involved a pair of seniors, as Kelsey Grose put a ball in play to third base and Katie Judd, who had just slugged an RBI double that tied the game, ended up coming around to score on the ensuing overthrow to first.
“You couldn’t have drawn it up any better … game on the line, senior day and we had four straight seniors coming to the plate. It was their moment and they delivered,” said Centennial coach Katie Grimm, who watched her girls storm the field following victory.
Atholton (12-2, 13-2), led by pitcher Alex Herschman (7 strikeouts), had limited the Eagles to just three hits through the first six innings.
But, as Grimm had discussed with her assistant coach before the bottom of the seventh, all Centennial needed was something to get the ball rolling.
“We both kind of looked at each other before going out for the seventh and were like, ‘you know, we’re not out of this.’ We just had to get somebody on — it didn’t matter how — to get us started,” Grimm said.
Sure enough, sophomore Josefine Jensen reached base courtesy of an error to lead off the inning and suddenly the Eagles had life. Freshman Emily Allen (2-2) followed with a single and then sophomore Sammy Kastner drove both of them in with a triple to center.
Now down just two, the Eagles got one more back when senior Anna Cowan ripped a single up the middle. And then, when Judd drilled her double off the fence, all of sudden the game was tied.
“Momentum is definitely a funny thing,” Atholton coach Bob Baxter said. “We were feeling good, having just added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh, and then all of a sudden they get a runner on courtesy of an overthrow and everything changed.
“You could see the snowball effect taking place.”
With the crowd already buzzing, all Grose wanted to do, according to her coach, was put something in play. Her grounder to third ended up working perfectly.
“There was still just one out, at the very worst we were going to be headed to extra innings, so I just told Kelsey to relax and get the bat on the ball,” Grimm said. “You just had a feeling that something good was going to happen.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for an Atholton squad that had come into the day just a game behind first-place Glenelg (14-0, 17-0) in the county standings and had played clean ball most of the afternoon.
The Raiders had scored their first run on an RBI double by Melanie Berger in the first inning, then added another in the fourth when Amanda Petersen tripled and came around to score on a grounder back to the pitcher.
Strong defense by Atholton made that two-run cushion hold up until the seventh when Berger (3-4) delivered again. Her single over the second baseman plated two more runs to make it 4-0.
As it turned out, though, it wasn't enough to secure the victory. Atholton ended up making three errors in the seventh inning to aid a Centennial attack that got hot at the perfect time.
Centennial pitcher Emily Bowman (6 strikeouts) ended up getting the victory in the circle, holding the Raiders’ bats in check just enough to set up the late heroics.
“We’ve been waiting for this type of win for a couple weeks now … really ever since we started turning the corner with that win over Reservoir,” Grimm said. “They knew what they were capable of and they proved it. Truly an amazing effort.”
Atholton has a short turnaround, scheduled to take on Glenelg Thursday afternoon, and Baxter says there’s no time for his girls to hang their heads.
“We need to have a short memory,” Baxter said. “Nothing has changed, this is still a very good team and a great group of girls. We’ve just got ourselves a little bit of adversity now to battle through.”