HOUSTON — Riverside’s players made enough noise in the fifth inning of a Division IV district semifinal to get the attention of the field umpire — but Jalynn Stanley made enough noise on her next swing to get the attention of all Covington players and fans.
After having what looked like a ball-four called erased by the field umpire, Stanley crushed a full-count pitch about 10 yards over the left-field fence for a three-run home run. The hit broke open a scoreless game and sparked a 6-0 victory for the Pirates.
“I loved that. As soon as I knew I was getting another pitch, I knew I had to do something to help my team out,” Stanley said.
Stanley, the team’s all-everything sophomore who is batting .618 and has a .143 ERA, was at bat with two runners on base and one out with no score in the bottom of the fifth. Riverside’s players cheered wildly in the dugout and slammed against a safety fence that runs along the front of the structure.
Stanley appeared to draw a ball-four walk with a full count — only to have the field umpire say he called time before the pitch to tell Riverside’s players to stop banging the fence.
“There is a noise rule that you’re not supposed to bang on things and stuff, but it’s one of those rules you kind of forget about,” Riverside coach Andy Phelps said. “I thank him for it, because it gave us the pitch we needed to get going.”
Covington probably preferred the banging to the sound that came next.
With new life at the plate, Stanley homered on the next pitch she saw and caused Riverside’s dugout to erupt with louder cheering.
All Riverside players and coaches knew it was a homer as soon as they saw the ball leave the bat. They’ve gotten plenty of practice this season at recognizing when Stanley hits a home run — it was her 13th this season.
“It was a little inside, but I knew I just had to open up front side and take it,” Stanley said.
The victory earns the Pirates (17-8) their second consecutive district final berth. They’ll face National Trail on Saturday in Tipp City for a chance to earn a regional berth.
“This is huge,” Stanley said. “We lost a lot of good players off last year and are young. We just had to mesh more as a team this year and be more like sisters instead of teammates. That’s how we’re getting so far in tournament.”
The Pirates didn’t stop scoring in the fifth.
Covington tried to start a rally in the sixth after Kenzie Long hit a two-out single but Stanley struck out Kirsti Barnes for the final out.
Jordyn Marshall started the team off in the bottom of the sixth with a single and Malaina Jenkins followed with a pop-up single to left field.
Amerra Huston grounded out and Shelby Giles struck out to quickly rack up two outs. The Pirates didn’t strand the runners, though.
Riverside catcher Courtnie Smith hit a line-drive double to left field to drive home Marshall and Jenkins, then Stanley hit an RBI triple to right field to boost the lead to 6-0.
“Scoring more runs was good for us because they had the heart of lineup coming up (in the seventh),” Phelps said. “That was more insurance. That makes you play easier, when you know you can have a couple of errors and still be okay.”
Covington’s first two batters reached base in the seventh after a couple of defensive miscues, including Stanley falling into first baseman Kalin Kreglow while trying to throw while running towards first after a grounder.
But Covington’s Layklyn Kemp hit into a fielder’s choice that resulted in an out at second base, and Hailey Jackson then hit a groundout to Kreglow at first. After Kreglow tagged Jackson for the second out, she saw a runner trying to score and threw to Smith, who made the tag at the plate for the last out.
“She did a great job,” Phelps said of Kreglow’s play. “She was listening to us talk to her and watched the runner. Those are things we’ve been working on all year and they are finally came together.”
Neither team scored until the fifth, though both had chances. Riverside loaded the bases in the second but stranded every runner, and Covington stranded two in the third. Allie Garman hit a fielder’s choice and was thrown out at first with one out in the third, then Kemp was tagged out in a rundown between third base and home plate for the inning’s final out.
The Buccaneers stranded one runner in each the fourth and fifth and Riverside stranded one in the fourth.
Riverside didn’t waste any more chances.
Shelby Giles reached on an error with one out in the fifth, then Courtnie Smith beat out a throw to first on a bunt for a single. Stanley then hit the three-run home run to jump start the victory.
“We knew they were a good-hitting team, especially (Stanley),” Covington coach Phil Smith said. “We knew not to get anything out over the plate for her, and we just had a little miss, and that was it. The girls still had a lot of heart and kept battling. They fought.”
Stanley pitched a complete game and allowed seven hits while striking out six batters and walking none.
“She did amazing,” Phelps said. “I knew with her on the mound she was going to get us ground balls, get us pop ups and strike girls out. We needed to play solid defense behind her, and the girls did that today.”
Covington finishes 7-14 overall. The Buccaneers will lose seniors Makenna Gostomsky and Ashlyn Plessinger to graduation. Aside from the 11 players slated to return, Smith is looking forward to a big and talented eighth grade class entering high school next season.
“Makenna started pitching for us today and she did awesome,” Smith said. “This is the best game she’s had all year on the mound. We tried to give her all the support. Ashlyn made some outstanding plays and had a good bunt late. I’m proud of both of them. Tough loss, but I think we’ll just keep rolling.”
Gostomsky was charged with the loss. She pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits. She had three strikeouts. Long finished in the circle and allowed three earned runs on four hits and one walk. She had one strikeout.
Phelps is hopeful Riverside will play as loose on Saturday as it did on Tuesday. The Pirates beat Lehman Catholic 3-2 in extra innings last Thursday in a sectional opener.
“During warmups today, we were relaxed,” Phelps said. “They were having fun on the bus over here, laughing and giggling. With having played Lehman before and beating them, our mindset was off. With not having seen Covington, the girls were on and relaxed and did their jobs.”
National Trail beat Tri-County North 10-9 in a district semifinal on Tuesday in Versailles to advance. The Blazers will face Riverside at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Tippecanoe Middle School.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.