SULLIVAN TWP. — The Black River softball team wasn’t about to lose for the fifth time in its last six games.
Not on Monday in front of a crowd of 300 screaming fans. Not on the day the Pirates were going to dedicate the diamond to one of their own when Black River christened the grounds “Dorothy Chapman Field” in honor of former All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player Dorothy “Mickey Maguire” Chapman, who was a Spencer Township resident.
It didn’t matter that Firelands jumped out to a two-run lead or that a one-hour weather delay halted things a bit. The Pirates were going to win this Patriot Athletic Conference Stripes Division contest and win they did, halting a five-game winning streak by the Falcons with a 7-5 victory.
“I don’t think any of them had played in front of this many people,” Black River coach Lauren Rogers said. “This was a long time coming. When you put together the hype and the crowd, it was really great to see them pull this off. From Day One, we’ve focused on playing together as a team and with excitement.”
That excitement erupted with a five-run fifth inning that erased a two-run deficit.
The rally came after the aforementioned weather delay and left some thinking the late Chapman might have lent a hand from the heavens.
The Pirates (6-12, 4-8) had managed just three hits against Emma Ranney (6-5), but found their stroke in the fifth. Morgan Alban had a big RBI double in the inning, but it was Kayla Gardner’s two-run bunt single that really got things going.
A simple bunt down the third-base line got interesting when Lexi Shick came up firing, but clipped Gardner, allowing Alban and Nastia Patrusheva to score.
“I think keeping the rally going is big in that inning,” Gardner said. “It really gets us going. Every hit gets us moving. It affects us all. It was very nerve-wracking to play in front of that many people. I just let the nerves go when I got in the batter’s box, but it really helped a lot.
“It pushed us to play better. There’s pressure at first, but once you get on the field you have to zone them out. There were 300 people here. You just have to play your best because 300 people could see your mistakes.”
Firelands (9-8, 5-5) put up three runs in the final frame to cut things to two and had the bases loaded before Hannah Barco (4-5) struck out Emily Novosielski to end things.
“It was nerve-wracking, really nerve-wracking, but it was fun,” Barco said. “Knowing that I did a good job today, it made it fun. It means a lot, it really does. We all had lost confidence in ourselves. Now that we won, we have it back.”
For the Falcons, the future will be a matter of forgetting about a two-error fifth inning and pushing forward in an effort to repeat as the LaGrange Division II District champion.
“You keep reminding them to stay focused, keep their heads up and don’t play like you lost the game,” Firelands coach Phil Rawlings said. “We realize we can’t take anybody for granted. We have to show up and play every game.”