Monroeville opened the seventh inning with three consecutive bunts against a defense that was rather untested through six innings.
Two of three bunts resulted in errors to open the floodgates. The Eagles scored five runs in the seventh and topped Crestview, 8-3, in a pivotal Firelands Conference matchup on Thursday.
"We just had the feel," Monroeville coach Abe Helmstetter said. "Kylie is a heck of a pitcher. She has been bombing it all year and you have to do something. It worked out in our favor."
With the win, Division IV No. 10 Monroeville (16-2) pulled even with the Cougars (17-2) in the FC standings at 10-1. The teams meet again on May 16 in Monroeville in what will likely be a winner-take-all showdown for the league championship.
"We played really well," Helmstetter said. "We had a few mistakes where it cost us, but we got in a rhythm and we kept competing."
Hannah Lyons, who had struck out twice previously, led off the top of the seventh inning with a bunt that was booted by Crestview third baseman Zoe Metzger. Leadoff hitter Alex Carper followed with a bunt, beating out the throw to first to put two runners on.
Payton Scheid followed with the third bunt, and this time the throw to first was off line, allowing Lyons to score.
After a soft popout and an intentional walk to Monroeville pitcher Carley Helmstetter, Skiler Hershiser roped a ball up the middle for a single, scoring both Carper and Scheid on the play. Later, pinch-runner Brooklyn Schaffer scampered to third on the Hershiser single and scored on a wild pitch with Callie Rosser at the plate.
After a popout, Sydney Meisler connected her third straight RBI single, scoring Hershiser, who stole second and went to third on the wild pitch.
"I am proud of the girls for their great execution," coach Helmstetter said. "We got the momentum kicked to our side."
Carley Helmstetter continued her late-game surge with even more confidence and a five-run lead. She retired the first two batters of the seventh inning on groundouts before Ashlie Hicks singled on the infield. Helmstter induced a popout off the bat of Natalie Restille to finish off the important win.
"We did not field the ball well," Crestview coach Aaron Goon said. "Things really did not get going our way with a few things and Monroeville took advantage of it."
All told, Helmstetter retired 10 of the last 11 batters she faced.
"Carley was just strong," coach Helmstetter said of his daughter. "She kept fighting and executing pitches. She did a heck of a job and she is a gamer. She lives for the moment. I wish she would throw that way at the beginning of the game."
Both teams left runners in scoring position in the second inning, but the Cougars struck first in the third inning. No. 9 hitter BrookeLyn Johnson walked, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hicks, advanced to third on a wild pitch — and scored when Restille singled.
Monroeville struck back quickly in the top of the fourth. Scheid walked and stole second, then Helmstetter was intentionally walked. With Rosser at the plate, Scheid stole third base and scored when the throw by Crestview catcher Mary Leeper sailed into the outfield. Rosser walked before Meisler reached on an infield single as the Eagles took a 2-1 lead.
Crestview did not wait long to respond. Paige Schaefer singled and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Helmstetter recorded one of her seven strikeouts for the second out of the inning and the Eagles appeared to be out of the inning when Leeper hit a ground ball.
It was bobbled on the infield though to keep the inning alive. Helmstetter then walked Johnson for a second time with the last ball being a wild pitch. That allowed Schaefer to score and after the ball scooted away from Helmstetter who was covering home plate, Leeper hustled all the way from second to regain the lead.
"That should have been the turning point in the game," Goon said. "We have a dominant pitcher, but we could not get things to go our way today."
Monroeville tied the game in the sixth inning. Jessica Hayes and Hershiser each singled before Meisler cracked her second single to bring in Hayes.
"Skiler really made adjustments at the plate," coach Helmstetter said. "It is definitely a credit to her. She went up there with a purpose and making the adjustments was the big thing."
Before Thursday, Crestview had only allowed more than one run in five of its previous 18 games. The eight runs was a season-high allowed with the previous high allowed being five runs in a loss on April 7.
"That is not the team I have seen all year," Goon said. "We are a better team than we showed tonight. I think the girls know that."
Helmstetter allowed four hits. Of her 108 pitches thrown, 72 were for strikes.
"I think we got anxious as the game went on," Goon said. "Carley is a good pitcher and she has been a good pitcher for three years. That is nothing new there. You have to go up with a good approach."
Ringler was solid in the circle for Crestview for most of the game. She allowed nine hits, walked five, struck out 10, and threw a whopping 148 pitches. She had three innings of at least 25 pitches - the three innings that Monroeville scored in.
A loss by Monroeville would have essentially clinched the league title for Crestview, a thought not lost on the Eagles.
"The girls understood how big the game was," coach Helmstetter said. "We did not want to make it bigger than it was. We want them to just play. It is a softball game, so let's play and have fun. If we can do that, good things can happen."
Monroeville 000 201 5 — 8 9 3
Crestview 001 200 0 — 3 4 4
WP: Helmstetter. LP: Ringler