No. 3 Reservoir visits No. 1 Glenelg for a 3A East region semifinal softball game on Wednesday, May 17 at Glenelg High School.
Amy Stetser missed out on helping Glenelg's playoffs hopes last year, but on Wednesday with a 3A East region finals berth on the line against No. 3 Reservoir, the sophomore had the chance to be the difference this time around.
Down to her team's last strike in the bottom of the eighth inning, Stetser knocked a hard grounder through the right side of the Gators infield to score Julia Chamberlain from third base, clinching a 14-13 extra-inning walk-off victory.
"Once it was my turn I felt pretty ready," Stetser said. "I'd been hitting pretty well, so I felt confident. I was pretty excited. Last year I had to miss the second [playoff] game. I had surgery, so I was really happy I got to make the second game."
The sophomore also got the start in the circle for the top-seeded Gladiators (17-5), who defeated River Hill in the quarterfinal round Tuesday. Stetser nearly pitched a full eight innings — senior Gabby Browne faced four batters in the seventh inning before Stetser re-entered — while tossing just less than 200 pitches in 90-plus degree weather, all while overcoming a hot first-inning start by Reservoir's offense.
"I call her my little workhorse and that is what she was today," Glenelg coach Ray Gerstner said. "It's working, working, working every day, every inning and if she's not pitching she's hustling after a foul ball or if she's playing the field, she's going the hardest, fastest one out there usually. It is just hard work from everybody right now, so just a couple more to go."
Reservoir (15-7) took the lead in the top of the first inning after an RBI single by Breann Smith scored Emma Bailey. Macayla Allen hit an RBI single to plate Holly Daum and Katy Wnuk-Fink took a bases-loaded walk, which sent Smith home. Hunter Little then hit a two-run double, bringing the Gators' lead to 5-0.
"A couple more [plays] and just a little situational awareness on our part," Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said of the difference in the matchup. "But again, we are young so we all get to come back next year."
It was the second straight game Reservoir batted through the order in the first inning, but unlike its win over Centennial on Tuesday, the Gators couldn't pad their lead enough to keep their distance from the Gladiators.
Emily Michalski hit an RBI single to bring home Katie McIntyre to cut the deficit, 5-1 in the bottom of the first inning for Glenelg, but Allen brought the lead back to five in the top of the second after an RBI hit scored Daum.
However, after McIntyre brought the score to 6-5 in the second, the Gladiators took the advantage in the third inning.
Stetser batted in the first run to tie the game and Katie Dustin brought in three more after a bases-clearing triple to score Stetser, Maddie Wingert and Katie Grimm. McIntyre then knocked in Dustin from third with solid hit through the heart of the infield.
Dustin pushed the lead to six in the fifth inning and Glenelg had an opportunity to balloon its cushion further if it weren't for a highlight play in the outfield by Daum.
McIntyre knocked a ball to shallow center field, narrowly coming away with her fourth straight hit, but Daum made a fantastic play on the ball, as she dived headfirst to make the grab. She then doubled up Dustin at second, which kept the damage at a minimum.
"We have some players that [have] some major heads-up situational awareness," Frisvold said. "I mean the double play with Holly in center field was amazing, and it's that kind of stuff that makes me love coaching is their resiliency and their heart."
That play proved crucial in Reservoir's rally, as it produced six more runs, including five in the top of the seventh inning to tie.
Despite trailing, the Gators never panicked at the plate and remained patient finding their pitches, which resulted in four walks in seventh.
Bailey got it started after getting hit by a pitch and Daum followed with a single. Smith then hit an RBI double to score Bailey and Abby Wang plated Daum on a sacrifice groundout. Emily Lloyd took a bases-loaded walk and Bailey followed with another hit by pitch to send Hatzakos home, tying the score at 12.
Reservoir blanked the Gladiators in the bottom of the inning and regained a one-run lead in the top of the eighth after Sophia Striegel took a bases-loaded walk to score Daum.
"We talked about it and that has been our strategy really in the playoffs," Frisvold said of her team's patience at the plate. "Be patient and just put the pressure on them, and that means they have to come into the zone on you. It helped us a lot unfortunately it wasn't quite enough."
Chamberlain started the bottom of the eighth at second base and after bunts by Michalski and Molly Dustin moved her to third, it set the table for Stetser, who went into the at-bat 1-for-2 with a walk, a run and an RBI. She got the count to 2-2 when she took a swing and ended the game.
"I was hoping for a strike, but I knew they would be there for me whether I struck out or not," Stetser said. "They'd be there the next inning. Even though I was the one at bat, we were all there. We were all trying our best and they were out there on the bases for me to get in."
The Gladiators totaled 15 hits in the game with McIntyre (3-for-4, walk, two runs, four RBIs), Erin Cauley (3-for-4), Molly Dustin (2-for-4, two runs) and Wingert (2-for-3, double, three runs) each collecting multiple hits.
"We all had a little bit of 'want to,' " Gerstner said. "You heard us say it, just that 'want to.' Who wants it more? We might not have executed on all the plays, probably made a bad call here or there but that is what happens. … It came down to the bitter, bitter end."
Bailey led Reservoir at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two walks, two runs and an RBI, while Allen went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a run. Smith had two hits, including a double, a stolen base, two runs and two RBIs.
Although the Gators came up short on the come back, Frisvold was proud of her teams' effort and is excited for next season as she returns her entire starting line up.
"The resiliency they had to come back, fighting, pushing, trying to do better was outstanding," she said. "I was so proud of them for that fight at the end. At the end of the day we walk away, but we come back next year stronger and hopefully better."
After seeing their season end in the 3A East quarterfinal round a season ago, the Gladiators are a win away from their first region title in seven years.
They will need to defeat Northeast-AA at home Friday at 4 p.m. to do it.
Glenelg 14, Reservoir 13 (8 innings)
G (17-5), Re (15-7)
Re — 5 1 0 0 0 1 5 1 13 9 5
G — 1 4 5 0 2 0 0 2 14 15 4
Around the league:
Sherwood 5, Howard 3 (4A North region, Section II)