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Willard rallies past Norwalk in extra innings

By JOSH MORGRET • Updated Apr 9, 2019 at 10:37 PM

NORWALK — Every win is a special one.

To do it on the road when down to the last two strikes in a game means just a little bit more.

Willard rallied with two outs in the seventh inning — then added two runs in the eighth to escape with a 7-5 non-league win at Norwalk on Tuesday.

"That is the character of our team to never give up," Willard coach Fred Mock said. "We went to the very bitter end, even though it looked bleak at times. Our girls just do not give up. Every girl in our lineup has the power to make something happen."

Karissa Conrad quickly retired the first two batters in the top of the seventh — the sixth and seventh consecutive Willard (5-5) hitters she had retired. But then, everything went south.

Cathern Hamons worked a 3-0 count, then hit a single up the middle. Kalli Sowers then had a swinging bunt that went no more than 10 feet, but Conrad's rushed throw to first base sailed down the foul line in right field. That allowed Hamons to race around and score, Sowers to reach third base, and the tying run in the form of Haylie Hamons to come to the plate.

Haylie Hamons — who hit a home run in the first inning — delivered again as she tied the game with another home run over the center field fence for a 5-5 tie.

"Haylie stepped up and hit a ball for us," Mock said. "When she puts a smooth swing on the ball, she is one of the best hitters around. She has power. It’s fun to watch her swing when she is smooth."

Norwalk coach Julie Schmidt said she nearly gave Hamons the free pass.

"Karissa got behind in the count," Schmidt said. "Then you have to get back that strike. We talked about potentially walking her, but if we did that, you put the go-ahead run at the plate. We made the executive decision to let her hit."

The Truckers (2-9) nearly responded in the bottom of the seventh. Elyse Balduff and Sky Story each singled with one out to give Norwalk a chance to walk off with the win. But Alex Nolan laced a groundout, and opting for the win, Schmidt sent Balduff as she rounded third, but she was out at home, ending the threat.

Willard wasted little time going to work in the extra inning. Morgan Hamons reached on an error, then Addie Slone added a bunt single. Elli White then singled and aggressive base running by courtesy runner Carlee Gibson brought in the go-ahead run.

Cathern Hamons' run-scoring single pushed the margin to 7-5 as pinch runner Becca Slone scored. Willard could have extended the lead, but Sowers flied out and White was thrown out at home trying to score to end the inning.

"We preached to them towards the end to be patient," Mock said. "When we were down three runs — you have to do anything it takes to get on base. Our girls did a fine job of doing that."

The Truckers did not muster up a fight in response. Morgan Hamons only struck out four hitters on the day, but two of them came on the last two batters of the game to seal the important win for the Flashes.

"We were one out away from a big win over a great ball team," Schmidt said. "We put together six solid innings. Ultimately with the two-run difference, it came down to the (six) innings where we did not score. We scored in two innings."

Sowers laced a double off the fence in the first inning, then scored on Haylie Hamons' first home run.

"There is a lot of things that make up a loss," Schmidt said. "There is lots of little things along the way that could have produced a win."

Norwalk responded immediately. Sydney Hughes singled, then Emma Kastor ripped a triple. Balduff was hit by a pitch and went to steal second on the first pitch to Story. The throw was high, allowing Kastor to score and Balduff to scamper to third.

Story then reached on an error as Balduff came in to score. Conrad and Meadow Muratori each singled to load the bases with one out. Lexi Gendron hit into a fielder's choice to score Story, and another fielder's choice ended the frame.

"That has been one of our big mottos this year — fighting and never giving up," Schmidt said. "This team has a lot of resilience. There is a lot of things we have battled back from the last several years. This is a positive team and a never quit team."

Norwalk added a run in the third inning. Story doubled to lead off the inning and score on Muratori's single with two outs.

Schmidt noted the play of Story, the cleanup hitter, was key for the Truckers. Story registered three hits and was on base all four at-bats.

"This is her second game batting fourth," Schmidt said. "She is a great power hitter with a lot of strength behind that hit. She makes contact a lot. With a big swing, the ball just sails when she hits it."

Hamons finished with just 96 pitches as Norwalk was consistently aggressive throughout the evening.

"We wanted Morgan to just hit her spots," Mock said. "We wanted her move it inside and move it outside. She can be tough."

Mock noted how big the win is. The Flashes have six games in six days this week and seven games in eight days if you include this past Saturday's contest. Willard lost a close game against Huron on Monday.

"This was huge," Mock said. "To get a win on the road is hopefully a momentum builder. We have Port Clinton (Wednesday). Hopefully we can take care of business and get back to .500 in the league."

 

Willard 200 000 32 — 7 12 2

Norwalk 401 00 00 — 5 11 4

WP: M. Hamons. LP: Conrad.

2B: (W) Sowers, Adams, Mahl. (N) Kastor, Story. 3B: (N) Kastor. HR: (W) H. Hamons 2.

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