After allowing the game-winning run in Alexander’s 3-2 win over Wellston on April 17, Erin Sturgill gained an emphatic measure of redemption against the Spartans on Tuesday. In dramatic fashion, Sturgill’s walk-off three-run home run lifted the Lady Rockets to a 6-5 win and locked up the Lady Rockets’ third consecutive TVC-Ohio Division championship.
WELLSTON — This time, Erin Sturgill turned the tables on the Alexander Spartans.
After allowing the game-winning run in Alexander’s 3-2 win over Wellston on April 17, the senior standout gained an emphatic measure of redemption against the Spartans on Tuesday.
In dramatic fashion, Sturgill’s walk-off three-run home run lifted the Lady Rockets to not only a 6-5 Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division softball victory, but it locked up the Lady Rockets’ third consecutive TVC-Ohio Division championship.
The Rockets have now captured the outright title in back-to-back years, following a co-championship with Vinton County two years ago.
With the win, the Rockets raised their impressive record to 17-3 overall, and 8-1 in the TVC-Ohio with one division game to go.
Alexander, which stood tied with Wellston throughout much of the season, concludes league play with three straight losses and finishes at 6-4.
The Spartans slip to 10-6 overall, with two of those league losses coming on game-winning home runs by the opposition.
In a 12-inning thriller last Thursday, Meigs’ Amy Barr blasted the game-winning homer to give the Marauders a 6-5 win.
On Tuesday, Sturgill made the Spartans feel de ja vu all over again.
With the Lady Rockets trailing 5-3 entering their last at-bat, Tashina Thacker drew a leadoff walk and Amber Lambert reached on an error at third base.
Sturgill then stepped in to face Spartan ace Heather McClain, and battled her to the end, including initially injuring herself on a foul ball off her leg.
Sturgill was down for a moment, much to the tense silence of the Wellston crowd, but she was far from out.
Rather, she bounced back up and took a McClain offering out — out of the park beyond the right-centerfield fence.
“I’m just thrilled to death, Erin battled in that last at-bat,” said Wellston coach Rick Perdue. “I think it was a 2-2 pitch. But not only her. Tashina (Thacker) battled in that last-bat to get a walk and so did Amber Lambert. I honestly felt like we were going to come back, I didn’t feel doomed. All day I felt that way. We just kept battling back.”
The home run set off a wild Wellston celebration at the plate — a celebration which secured the latest TVC-Ohio championship.
Sturgill was soft-spoken about the home run, but described McClain’s pitch and the no-doubter when the ball made contact with the bat.
“The pitch was inside, and I knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat,” she said.
Alexander coach Randy Dillinger described what he saw on the final swing as well.
“It (pitch) was supposed to be low and inside, but it was right down the middle and she just drove it,” said Dillinger. “Simple as that. I just closed my eyes. I knew it was gone.”
Dillinger did make a good point — Sturgill has had a walk-off game-winner before.
In a 3-2 season-opening win over Scioto Northwest, Sturgill drilled a solo shot in the eighth inning.
“That isn’t the first time she’s did that this year either,” said Dillinger of Sturgill. “She’s a solid hitter. She even got hit in the shin there on a foul ball, but she came right back on it.”
Although, Sturgill’s home run was set up by the preceding walk and error.
“We told them (Spartans) to not worry about that,” said Dillinger. “We got the runners on, and if we have to, walk her (Sturgill). We know she’s a power hitter. Heather did everything right until the last pitch.”
Indeed she did. McClain limited the Lady Rockets to only five hits, including a leadoff single by Sturgill for Wellston’s initial hit.
All six of the Lady Rockets’ runs were earned, as McClain walked five and struck out eight while facing 29 batters altogether.
Sturgill scored twice, as Breanna Hall, Holly Waldron and Chelsie Folden all went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Speaking of Waldron and Folden, the duo came through to tie the game at 3-3.
After a leadoff walk to Stephanie Trainer and the single by Hall, Waldron drove in Trainer on a groundout and Folden laced a two-out single to center.
Trainer walked twice while Lambert and Amber King each walked once.
“Everybody had a hand in contributing to this win,” said Perdue. “You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
However, most of Wellston’s contributions came on the offensive end.
The usually-stingy Lady Rocket defense committed seven errors, including four in the seventh which allowed Alexander to take a 5-3 lead.
Kaitlyn Guthrie led off by reaching on an error, then Shelby Williams and Lacey Shaulis recorded back-to-back singles coupled with E-9s.
“Defensively, we didn’t help Erin a whole lot tonight,” said Perdue. “But in the end, when we had to, we played pretty good defense.”
In fact, Shaulis — who had the game-winning hit in the two teams’ first meeting — was stranded at third as Sturgill induced three straight outs to preserve a 5-3 deficit.
She then helped her cause with the three-run home run.
In the pitcher’s circle, Sturgill scattered nine hits, but only allowed one earned run with no walks and four strikeouts.
She saw 33 Spartans altogether, as Alexander pieced together single runs in the third, fourth and fifth frames.
All three points came with two outs.
After two scoreless stanzas to open the game, the Spartans broke the ice in the third with Whitney Daugherty reaching on a fielding error and advancing on a throwing error.
She scored on the next at-bat by Guthrie, who singled to center.
In the fourth, Shaulis and McClain led off by singling to left and reaching on an error respectively.
McClain moved to second on a 6-5 fielder’s choice, then scored on a single to right by Morgan Grinstead.
The Rockets earned one back in the bottom half when Sturgill singled to right, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a 1-3 groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Hall.
But Wellston was once again in a two-run hole, trailing 3-1 after four-and-a-half when Williams, Shaulis and McClain all singled with McClain driving in Williams.
Williams scored twice and went 2-for-4 as Shaulis led the way for the Spartans with a 3-for-4 day.
Jenni Pyle doubled in the sixth, as Guthrie, Williams, Shaulis, McClain and Grinstead each collected an RBI.
Defensively, Alexander committed just two errors with the other occurring in the fourth.
“We played good defense, and we probably hit Erin as well as we do any pitcher in the TVC,” said Dillinger.
However, the Spartans stranded seven baserunners, including two in the fourth and fifth and one apiece in the third, sixth and seventh.
Sturgill retired the side in the opening two innings, including three straight groundouts to Thacker at second in the second.
“Tashina Thacker, I can’t say enough about her,” said Perdue. “She played a really good game at second base and for her to get on base in that last at-bat…”
Thacker — in her first varsity game — had four assists on the day as Sturgill helped herself with five assists and two putouts.
Her fifth and final assist gave her — and the Lady Rockets — one last shot at the plate.
“For some reason now, they got the one extra shot and that’s the one that counted,” said Dillinger.
Indeed it did.
Dillinger acknowledged that it was a heartbreaking loss for his young Spartans, as Shaulis is the team’s lone senior.
“We’ve got a few days to recover from this, but we have to get our heads screwed back on,” he said.
The Rockets, conversely, sport eight seniors — and now a third straight TVC-Ohio championship.
“This group of seniors has an amazing work ethic,” said Perdue. “And not just March through May. It’s got to be in the summer, fall and winter too. You’re seeing that hard work pay off.”
The Rockets return to action tonight when they host Scioto Northwest in a return match.
First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
Wellston then travels to Nelsonville-York on Thursday for a makeup match and the finale in the TVC-Ohio.
* * *
Alexander 001 110 2 — 5 9 2
Wellston 000 102 3 — 6 5 7
Heather McClain and Lacey Shaulis
Erin Sturgill and Breanna Hall
W — Erin Sturgill; L — Heather McClain
HR — Erin Sturgill, Wellston, two on, 7th inning
AHS: Heather McClain 7IP, 6R, 6ER, 5H, 5BB, 8K, 29BF
WHS: Erin Sturgill 7IP, 5R, 1ER, 9H, 0BB, 4K, 33BF