Armstrong-Potomac wins on bases-loaded hit in bottom of the 7th

Jessica Goulding tags out Hoopeston's Raven Rutherford at third base. (Ben Theobald/Rantoul Press)

POTOMAC — It was the bottom of the seventh inning. The bases were loaded for the Armstrong-Potomac Trojans softball team, who were down against the Hoopeston Cornjerkers 8-6 on Friday. 

Armstrong-Potomac’s last hope was Grace Reynolds as she dug in the batter’s box that was muddy from the rain.

The count was 2-1 when Reynolds made the decision to finally swing, making contact with the ball to drive a ground ball past Hoopeston’s shortstop and third baseman. The runners on second and third scored easily. Armstrong-Potomac’s Kayla Rose, who was on first base, advanced to third base. Rose then rounded third base, while Hoopeston’s left fielder retrieved the ball and threw it to the catcher, but the throw got by the catcher, allowing Rose to make it to home.

Armstrong-Potomac won 9-8, and the Trojans celebrated.

It was the first game-winning hit for Reynolds, who overcame her anxiety. 

I was nervous that I was going to mess up, but I didn’t,” Reynolds said. “I wanted to hit it, so I could get other people in. When I hit it in the left field I was happy, because I thought they would get in. I was so excited to win.”

The win for Armstrong-Potomac (2-3) was an important one for coach Gary Duden, considering the team had lost its three previous games.

“We really needed that win,” Duden said. “I’m super proud of the girls.”

The Trojans had to come back against the Cornjerkers not just once, but twice. After two innings, the Trojans trailed 4-1. 

Armstrong scored four runs in the bottom of the third. Two of those four runs were driven in by Denley Heller who hit a triple. The other two runs were driven in by a pair of RBI singles by Jess Goulding and Kayla Roe.  Armstrong had its first lead after three innings, 5-4.

Hoopeston retook the lead after scoring three runs in the fourth and one in the fifth inning.

The win was hard fought one for the Trojans, who had to make up for mistakes such as errors and runners being thrown out.

“We’ve made a lot of mental mistakes that have cost us a lot of runs,” Duden said. “We are trying to clean those up, and the only way we are going to get cleaned up is to keep plugging away.”

Duden was impressed with how his team didn’t give up and kept on fighting until the last at-bat.

“We had little success in the last inning before those two outs and then finally we got a rally going,” Duden said. “They just dug in and knew how much their coaches wanted it. And those girls wanted it too.”

Reynolds was 1-4 in her batting for the game, but her one hit was enough to give her team the win.

“I can’t say enough about Grace Reynolds,” Duden said. “That girl has worked her tail off, and to see what she just did there to drive in that run.” 

Another key play in the seventh inning was a single by Julia Mulvaney to keep her team alive, with two outs.

“Molveny got a key base hit to allow Grace Reynolds to get that game winner,” Duden said. “And we needed it.” 

For A-P, Denley Heller pitched all seven innings, giving up six earned runs, 10 hits and seven strikeouts.

“We put a lot of pressure on Heller, who is a freshman, and she’s responded so well,” Duden said. “She is a warrior, and she wants to win. For a freshman, she has matured in five games more than I expected. She earns the opportunity to put herself on that mound.”

An issue that the Trojans will need to work on is fielding the ball. The team made four errors.

“We do need to cleanup some errors,” Duden said. “We need to cleanup some communication. But I feel like we are getting there.”

Contact Ben Theobald at btheobald@rantoulpress.com