Season finale

Wolverines hold on for 9-6 win over Knights

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Sheffield second baseman Mareena Bailey looks for the umpire’s call after applying a tag to Eisenhower’s Maddie Fetzeck during their game at Sheffield High School, Thursday, May 16, 2019. The Wolverines closed out their season with a 9-6 win over the Knights.

The softball season finale between Eisenhower and Sheffield at Sheffield High School Thursday had it all.

Timely hitting, solid defense, close plays, collisions, controversy, ejections and, ultimately, a 9-6 Wolverines victory. The win came on the heels of a tough loss Wednesday.

“I told them yesterday after the game that the only difference (between the teams) was that we don’t know how to win yet,” Sheffield assistant coach DJ Rose said. “They understood that and fed off it and came out with the win today.”

Neither team got much going through the first two innings, but both got on the board in the third.

Phoebe Tower started the inning by reaching on a dropped third strike and moved to second on an error. She advanced to third on Kayla Greene’s groundout and came home on Maddie Fetzeck’s ground out to put the Knights ahead 1-0.

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Sheffield’s Alyssa Dunham collides with Eisenhower catcher Shelby Kuzminski on a play at the plate during the fourth inning of their game at Sheffield High School, Thursday, May 16, 2019. Dunham was out on the play, but the Wolverines defeated the Knights, 9-6.

“We’ve definitely improved from the start of the year to the end of the year,” Eisenhower coach Rich Pascuzzi said.

Alyssa Dunham reached on an error to start the home half. Dunham went to third on Anna McKracken’s single. Tori Childress grounded out to short, and Eisenhower first baseman Alex Pascuzzi fired to home to get Dunham trying to score. Marissa Grubbs singled in McKracken and Emily Leichtenberger doubled home Grubbs to give Sheffield a 2-1 lead.

Allison Schmader led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a walk and moved to third on a pair of defensive indifferences. It looked like Eisenhower might strand her on third, but she came home when Dunham reached on an error. McKracken doubled and Dunham tried to scored, but the relay beat her to the plate and catcher Shelby Kuzminski was able to hold on to the ball through a collision with Dunham.

The Wolverines picked up another run in the fifth. Grubbs hit a one out triple and came home on Leichtenberger’s sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.

Eisenhower made things interesting in the sixth.

Fetzeck led off with a double and Kuzminski was intentionally walked. Lexi Head singled to load the bases for Alexis Courtney. Courtney appeared to have hit a 2-run single, but as the ball was coming in from the outfield the home plate umpire ruled Courtney had stepped out of the box and was out. Because of the ruling, all the runners had to move back to their positions.

Pascuzzi picked up her teammate with a 2-run single to close the gap to 4-3 and put runners on the corners with one out. Brittany Smith popped out to first baseman Ashley Fredericks. Fredericks bobbled the ball a bit, but held on to complete the catch. Head, seeing the bobble, darted for home. Fredericks threw to Childress at the plate to try to catch Head. The ball sailed just wide, but Head and Childress collided hard. Still trying to keep herself alive on the bases, Head got up and ran back to third. Third baseman Jerika Dexter collected the ball and narrowly outraced Head to the third base bag. Head collided with Dexter on the play and had to leave the game with an injury.

Coach Pascuzzi and Knights assistant coach Amber Fox were both ejected following the play for arguing that Head was interfered with.

“Having to put three runners back on the bases, that took us right down (mentally),” Coach Pascuzzi said. “It’s hard to fight back and rally after that.”

Sheffield went in to the bottom of the inning with a 4-3 lead and quickly went to work.

Dexter lead off with a walk and Bailey reached on an error. Dunham hit a RBI ground out to make it 5-3. One out later, Childress and Grubbs hit back-to-back RBI singles to put the Wolverines ahead 7-3. Leichtenberger was hit by a pitch. Grubbs scored on an error, and Fredericks reached on an error. Leichtenberger scored on the play to give Sheffield a 9-3 lead going into the final inning.

“We knew we’d have to get the bat on the ball,” Rose said. “And we were aggressive on the bases.”

Eisenhower didn’t go down without a fight.

Sam Gourley singled and went to second on an error. Tower singled her home and Greene walked to put two on with no outs. Tower scored on Fetzeck’s ground out and Greene came in on Kuzminski’s sacrifice fly. Grubbs got a strikeout to end the game and the season for both teams.