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Mt. Hebron softball outlasts Reservoir in extra innings

When doubt starts to creep in, Mt. Hebron sophomore shortstop and leadoff hitter Erin Behel tells herself to take a deep a breath and let the rest unfold.

“The pressure is good in some circumstances, but you obviously don’t want it to get too out of control,” Behel said. “You just have to put it in perspective in terms of life: you’re still going to be here tomorrow, so take a deep breath.”

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Before she stepped to the plate in the Vikings’ season-opener at Reservoir, her team on the ropes — down one with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, the tying run on first, and a whirlwind of tumultuous moments that had anxiety brimming — Behel took another deep breath.

“Just calm down,” Behel said, repeating the words she uttered to herself.

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Behel’s calmness spurred new life — a loud two-out triple that tied the game at 10— and jubilation soon after, as the sophomore accounted for all three of the final outs in the 11-10 extra-inning thriller Monday to power the Vikings (1-1 overall, 1-0 county play) past the reigning 3A-East champion Gators.

“That was so stressful and so much fun,” said Behel, who finished 3-for-5, coming a home run short of the cycle, and added the game-tying RBI in the top of the seventh inning.

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The half-inning before that, Reservoir (0-1, 0-1) piled on four runs on four hits and a walk to erase Mt. Hebron’s three-run lead to take control, 10-9. The inning before that, in the bottom of the fifth, the Gators started their rally with three runs ignited by a triple, three singles, and a walk to start the half inning. This shrunk Mt. Hebron’s six-run cushion to 9-6, and Reservoir was poised to keep churning, having runners on first and third with no outs.

Mt. Hebron coach Mark Graydon called time to regroup his Vikings, refocusing starting pitcher Bri Hoskinson (8.0 IP, 14 H, 9 ER, 2 BB, 1 K) and telling his team “I just need an out.”

They got three instead, as Alex Wendt’s tag at the plate completed the rare triple play and, most importantly, put the plug on potential disaster. The 6-3-4-2 triple play went like this: Reservoir’s Taylor Davis groundout from Behel to Kieran Davis at first base; Davis to Eliza Munns at second base; Munns to Wendt at the plate, as Maddy Jones tried to score from third base.

“This team is really resilient this year,” Graydon said. “They never give up. They’re real gamers. Timely hitting and great fielding, as usual. This is a complete team.”

Mt. Hebron jumped out to an early 3-0 lead when Davis capped a three-run first inning with a moonshot, two-run homer to left-centerfield.

“You see that pitch, coming low and inside, I know I’m going to go for it,” Davis said. “I had to attack early.”

Reservoir answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, as Jones brought home leadoff hitters Ri Little and Macayla Allen on a double to right-centerfield. But the Vikings motored ahead, adding a run in the third inning to go up 4-2 and putting up four more runs in the fourth, taking advantage of three Reservoir errors to stake itself to a commanding 8-2 lead. Reservoir made it 8-3 after four innings and started a comeback with three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth.

At that point, Mt. Hebron’s six-run lead had evaporated. But in came Behel with her doubt-slaying approach. That’s when the sophomore launched the game-tying RBI triple on the first pitch of the at-bat, sending her younger sister, Emma Bethel, around to score from first base.

“I just knew something had to happen,” Behel said. “I just went all out. Take a swing, see what happens.”

After surrendering seven runs the previous two innings, Hoskinson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh to force an extra inning. High school softball uses the international tiebreaker rule made by the International Softball Federation, which places the batter that ended the previous inning on second base with zero outs to start the extra half frame.

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Wendt broke the 10-10 tie with an RBI single to right-centerfield in the first plate appearance of the eighth inning, and then Behel and Hoskinson sealed it with two groundouts and a flyout in foul territory.

“This is huge for us,” Graydon said. “They never gave up.”

Reservoir, meanwhile, enters this season in search of a new identity as five starters graduated from last year’s region title team. Kylee Gunkel, the team’s No. 1 pitcher, was also out Monday with the flu. Alyssa Kelly, the Gators’ No. 2 pitcher, started and went a full eight innings. She allowed 15 hits and eight earned runs. Kelly struck out four.

While costly errors and missed opportunities hurt her team in its pursuit of a season-opening win, Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold is enthused with her team’s response.

“It showed we are a resilient team,” she said. “We came back and fought hard, so that’s awesome. Hebron played a great game. … But I think it’s really hopeful for the future that we fought back so hard. I’m not pressed. I’m excited.”

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