VERSAILLES — Hannah Barga wasn’t thinking about a storybook grand slam or something similar when she came to the plate with the bases loaded in a tie against Anna in a Division III sectional final on Wednesday.
Such dramatics weren’t needed.
“I really just knew I needed to get something, to get the ball up to the outfield so we had a chance,” Barga said.
Barga hit a fly ball right to Anna center field Carey White. White fired a throw right to home plate, but Versailles’ Rachel Lyons was able to beat the throw and slid into home to give the Tigers a 9-8 victory.
Versailles (12-9) advances to face Benjamin Logan in a district semifinal on Monday in Brookville.
“This is awesome,” Barga, a junior center fielder, said. “Since I’ve been here the last two years, we haven’t won our first tournament game. Just being able to do that is a great feeling.”
The Tigers scored three runs in the bottom half of the fourth to take a 7-1 lead. But Anna (8-12) answered back with a monster fifth inning by scoring six runs thanks to four hits and two walks, then took an 8-7 lead after a solo home run by Carissa Edwards in the top of the sixth inning.
“I didn’t know what our mind set would be down 7-1, but the last five or six games, (our girls) have really come on and believed in their hitting,” Anna coach Mike Place said. “It was good to see us battle back.”
After Edwards’ home run, Versailles removed starting pitcher Tara Fritscher and replaced her with Lauren Monnin. Monnin held Anna in check the rest of the way and struck out two of the six batters she faced without allowing a hit.
Versailles then went to work on its comeback. Caitlin McEldowney led off the sixth with a line-drive double to left field, then Barga followed with a single on an infield ground ball.
Makenzie Knore followed with a double on the line drive to White. McEldowney safely scored, but White fired a throw to home plate in time for catcher Grace Maurer to tag out Barga.
“We couldn’t get down after that,” Barga said. “We just needed to believe in ourselves and know that we could come back and (score again) the next inning. We’d done it before.”
The Tigers failed to score another run in the sixth but went to work in the seventh.
After Faith Huddle led off the inning with a line out, Rachel Lyons hit a single on a hard ground ball to center field and Elli Morris followed with a line-drive single to left field.
Anna coach Mike Place elected to intentionally walk McEldowney, who is the team’s leadoff hitter. After fouling off the first pitch and taking the second pitch as a strike, Barga hit the fly to center field, and Lyons raced home after the catch and scored.
“I was just so excited to see the ball get there and for her to be safe,” Barga said of Lyons.
Floyd credited Lyons with starting things in the seventh. Lyons, senior left fielder, had just five hits in 52 at-bats this season entering Wednesday’s game. She was 2 for 2 on Wednesday and drew two walks.
Lyons worked up a full count on her at-bat in the seventh and fouled off three pitches before hitting her single.
“She’s been struggling all year, and she made me proud there,” Floyd said. “She battled for that. That was awesome, and for her to score the winning run was great. I’m a little emotional, because I’ve been pulling for her all year.”
Floyd said most of the team’s roster is made of underclassmen, and he credited the squad for making a comeback. He said it shows growth.
“Early in the season, this is a team that if we do that and let (an opponent) back in, they go on by us,” Floyd said. “We dug deep on this one.”
Monnin earned the win. Fritscsher allowed eight earned runs on eight hits in five innings and had one strikeout with three walks.
“They’re two different styles of pitchers,” Floyd said. “Once they starting hitting Tara, we needed a different look. (Monnin) has a nice curve ball with a nice drop, and I think she threw two fastballs after she came in, the rest were curves and drops. We needed to slow her down, and we did.”
Elaina Crosson was charged with the loss for Anna. She pitched a complete game and allowed nine earned runs on 16 hits with three walks and two strikeouts.
The Tigers hit Crosson early. They scored three runs on four hits in the first inning and added one run two hits in the third.
The Rockets scored one run on two hits in the top of the fourth to pull within 4-1, but the Tigers scored three runs on two hits and a walk in the bottom half to take a six-run lead.
Anna then responded with a six-run inning.
Crosson walked to start things off, then Edwards reached on a fielder’s choice. Brandi Weber hit a double to center field, which allowed Edwards to score from first base.
Nylah Crosson hit an RBI single to center field to bring Anna within 7-3. Brielle Collier drew a walk, then Maurer hit a home run to left field that landed about 10 yards behind the fence.
Edwards’ home run gave the team a momentary lead in the sixth, but Monnin shut things down afterward.
“It’s a heartbreaker, but at the same time it’s really nice seeing them battle back,” Place said. “They didn’t give up.”
Place credited the team for playing hard and said it showed on several defensive plays. Aside from multiple tough catches by White in center field, he also pointed to a catch Weber made in foul territory near third base by reaching over the fence along Versailles’ dugout. Weber was hit in the chest on a line drive in the sixth but was able to finish the game.
Place also credited Nylah Crosson for playing tough at first base. She played in place of Maggie Stiefel, who was injured in the team’s 3-2 loss at Fort Loramie on Tuesday.
“We had some early errors (tonight) but cleaned it up,” Place said. “They just all played so well. Carey played so tough and had some great throws and had one spectacular diving catch. …All of them, you can point out a couple of things that they did really well. It’s sad that it’s over.”
Maurer was the only Anna player to have multiple hits. She was 2 for 3 and drew one walk.
Abby Stammen was 3 for 3 for Versailles with 2 RBIs and two runs. McEldowney, Barga, Knore, Fritscher, Lyons and Morris each had two hits.
The Tigers have a tough task with Ben Logan (22-2), which finished first in the powerful Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division.
“We’ve got two pitchers, and if they figure one out, we can run up the other,” Floyd said. “I think it’s a good thing to have going into Monday.”
Anna’s season isn’t done. The Rockets will host Jackson Center in a Shelby County Athletic League game on Friday and will celebrate the team’s seniors that night.
Among the team’s five seniors are Elaina Crosson, who will play collegiately at Edison State, and Place’s daughter Olivia, who will play collegiately at Sinclair Community College.
“It’ll be bittersweet,” Place said.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.