BRYAN — Big game players make big plays in big games.
Evergreen got a big go-ahead, two-out run-scoring single from Brooklyn Richardson in the top of the seventh.
Then Marissa VanDenk caught a Bryan runner too far off second and after nailing the third out in the ensuing rundown, Evergreen had a 4-3 come-from-behind win, giving the Vikings back-to-back Northwest Ohio Athletic League softball titles.
“We were thinking we were playing for one run at the time,” explained Viking coach Jim Zoltowski. “We were confident playing with the order we had coming up. Brooklyn has come through for us numerous times whether it being at the plate or in the circle.
“We fought through a lot to get there. We had to overcome a lot today. We know coming in we had a lot cut out for us.”
The Vikes struck first in the first when Kennedy Coolman’s two-out base hit drove home Macy Chamberlin for a 1-0 lead.
Bryan tied the game in the second — thanks to two Viking errors — then took the lead in the third after two were out.
Marlee Yoder singled to center, and Addie Arnold singled to left.
When the throw from Jessica Riggs to third wasn’t in time, Arnold advanced to second.
Both rode home on Kailee Thiel’s base hit to right giving Bryan a 3-1 lead.
The Vikes came back in the top of the fifth to knot up the game.
Chamberlin and Skylee Raker both singled with one away.
Arnold got Richardson looking on strikes but Chamberlin scored on a wild pitch and when Thiel botched Coolman’s grounder, Raker romped home with the tying run.
Yoder singled with two out in the bottom of the inning but Raker blew her away trying to steal.
Finally in the seventh, the Vikings came up with the game-winning rally.
Chamberlin doubled to left with one out, then with two gone Richardson shot the biggest hit of the day to right chasing home the go ahead run.
After Richardson struck out the first two in the bottom of the seventh, Madison Grisier singled up the middle and Tabithah Taylor pinch ran for her.
Teaghan Blad bunted for a hit but that’s when VanDenk caught Taylor rounding the bag too far at second and after a five throw rundown, Kira Keller tagged out Taylor for the game-ending and league winning play.
“It was a really good bunt and we had worked a lot inside because of the weather and we worked on rundowns a lot,” expressed Zoltowski of the last play. “Our philosophy in run downs we put the pressure on the girl in the rundown and she’s going to be out. Marissa didn’t worry about the safe-out call at first and ran at her and forced her into a rundown that we caught her on.”
Evergreen shared the title with Archbold who the Vikings beat early in the season.
Wauseon faced Swanton Wednesday for a chance to grab a three-way share.
“They are a tough team,” said Zoltowski of Bryan. “Addie Arnold is a really good pitcher so in a huge environment our girls came through. Our dugout was phenomenal from beginning to end and really gave lot of confidence and energy.”
Besides driving home the game-winner, Richardson picked up the win in the circle, giving up six hits, walking just one and striking out four.
Arnold took the loss allowing six hits and walking four.
Evergreen advances to sectional final
Richardson followed up her late-inning heroics the next day throwing a five-hit shutout in a 12-0 win over Montpelier in the opening round of the Division III sectional.
The Vikings now host Archbold Friday in a sectional final.
Richardson threw a very efficient 61 pitches, 40 of which were strikes, mowing down the Locos.
Chamberlin had three hits and knocked in two runs to lead a very balanced Viking offense.
Richardson had a run-scoring single as did VanDenk, Jocelyn Schuster, Moore and Keller.
The Vikings moved to 10-9 on the season.