MAY 28, 2011 - TIPP CITY
|Cassie Yingst closes down the final batter in the seventh inning.
|Haley Adams wraps a base hit for Covington.
Prior to Covington's regional final game against Felicity-Franklin in Tipp City, Lady Bucc senior Chloe Shell unwrapped a cough drop, put it in her mouth - and for some unknown reason looked at the inside of the wrapper.
What she saw was a saying - You have survived together.
Immediately Shell pointed it out to her teammates, stressing that was an omen for the Lady Buccs.
"It (the saying) fits us to a tee," Shell explained to her teammates. "We got here together, now let's win it together."
And that's exactly what the Covington Lady Buccs did, rallying from a 4-0 deficit against one of the most feared pitchers in the state to claim a regional championship with an 8-4 victory.
The win propels Covington into the state semi-final next Friday at Akron Firestone Stadium in Akron.
"These kids just never quit battling," said Covington coach Dean Denlinger, trying to find the words through the emotion he was feeling inside. "This was just a great team effort, where everybody contributed. To be able to beat a team like this. And I have to credit those two guys in the dugout (assistant coaches Ed Boggs and Dan Cain). I have got two varsity level coaches in there."
Denlinger also has a group of girls who believe they can accomplish anything as a team.
That's the only way they were able to come from behind by four runs against an unbeaten team that has given up just six runs all year.
"It is amazing," Shell said. "We have worked so hard for this. We never gave up. We were trying to stay up in the dugout in the first three innings, but it wasn't easy. I am just kind of in awe right now."
Felicity ace Montana Wear was as good as advertised, especially in the first three innings. She shut down Covington batters one by one, not surrendering a single hit and allowing just one base runner.
"She's the real deal," said Denlinger of Wear. "I don't think we'll see another pitcher who throws that hard - at least I hope not. Montana Wear is as good as it gets."
Which makes Covington's comeback that much more amazing.
Things looked bleak in the top of the first as Felicity scored three runs, taking advantage of Covington miscues in the field.
The Cardinals then put another run on the board in the second to take a 4-0 lead.
"I think we were a little tight, maybe a little too nervous," Denlinger explained. "I called a timeout and did what I could to get us refocused, but it was all up to the girls. They had to be the ones to turn it around."
And it was Aubrye Cain in the dugout who kept the Lady Buccs focused on the task at hand. She consistently reminded her teammates that all it took was one hit to get things rolling.
That one hit came from the bat of Jesse Shilt, who put down a perfect bunt to lead off the fourth inning.
It sparked a five-run fifth inning as Covington batted through the lineup.
"I think it was just a matter of getting a couple girls on," said Hannah Pond, who would have two of the biggest at bats of her career. "We just seemed to gain momentum."
The momentum continued in the bottom of the fifth inning as Covington put three more runs on the board.
Cain started the rally with a single and Connor Schaffer was hit by a pitch.
With two outs, Pond hit a ground ball in the infield. The throw to first got away and when Pond went to second, the throw sailed into the outfield and rolled past the centerfielder to the fence. When the smoke had cleared, all three runners had scored, Covington led 8-4 and the Lady Buccs were on their way to Akron.
And even Pond was surprised to round the bases.
"I just kept running and hoped they wouldn't get the ball back in and get me out," she said.
Meanwhile, Casey Yingst had taken over for Chloe Shell, who had pitched four and two thirds of an inning before Denlinger made the switch with two outs in the top of the fifth.
"We like to bring Casey (Yingst) in like that, because she throws about seven miles per hour faster," Denlinger said. "Aubrye (Cain) has a great drop ball and I thought it would take all three pitchers today. I didn't know it was going to go as well as it did (with Casey Yingst)."
And the switch wasn't due to a poor effort by Shell by any means.
"Chloe was throwing well," Denlinger explained. "Three of the runs they got were unearned runs and that's not on Chloe. It was our plan from the beginning to mix up our pitchers."
And Shell, the ultimate team player, didn't have a problem with the strategy.
"That is something that has worked for us," Shell said of the pitching change. "If it is not broke, don't fix it."
It wasn't broke as Yingst and the Covington defense shut down the Felicity batters in the final two innings.
"I was nervous," Yingst said. "I just tried to hit my spots that were called and throw strikes."
Which she did and her teammates had her back in the field.
And the result is a trip to state next week.
"Other than my family, this is probably one of the better days I have had," Denlinger said. "But, we are not done yet. We are in this to win it."
They have survived together and the only way they'll win it is to win it together.
Felicity-Franklin ........301....000....0 - 4..4..4
Covington ................000.....530...x - 8..7..2
Wear and H. White. Shell, Yingst (4) and Schaffer. WP-Yingst. LP-Wear. 3B-Felicity-Franklin: Lucas. Records: Covington 26-4, Felicity-Franklin 19-1.