Lady Hearts Outlast Nook 23 Gold in Marathon Matchup
The Bloomington (IL) Lady Hearts advanced to the Women's Major Softball National Championship on Sunday, by virtue of a 3-2 decision over the Nook 23 Gold (PA) in 15 innings. The Loser's Bracket Final matchup was an instant classic, with the teams battling for over three hours at DeLuca Hall of Fame Field in Stratford, CT. With the win, the Hearts moved on to face the St. Louis Saints in Sunday afternoon's final.
Morgan Edwards smashed a solo, walkoff home run to center in the bottom of the 15th inning to break the stalemate, as the teams had been tied at 2-2 since the end of the fifth.
The Lady Hearts took an early lead off the Nook with two runs in the home first. With one out in the frame, Haley Ginger reached on an infield single to the left side. After Nook 23 Gold starter Reilly Gearhart struck out the next batter, Sarah Finck delivered a two-out double to the fence in right-center to put runners at second and third. Riley Phipps followed and grounded to the left side, and a throwing error allowed both runners to come home for a 2-0 Lady Heart lead.
Bloomington starter Alexis Estes kept the Nook 23 Gold off the scoreboard until the top of the fifth, when Halle Kisamore led off with a single to left and moved to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Becca Blatt crushed a solo shot to right-center, tying the game up at 2-2.
That score would hold until the 15th, when the Lady Hearts finally brought a close to the longest game of the 2017 WMS Tournament. In the absence of scoring, there was still some stellar softball on hand.
The Nook 23 Gold had a pair of great scoring chances that were thwarted by the Lady Hearts.
In the seventh inning, a pair of two-out base hits by Kisamore and Hanna Garber put two on, and Blatt worked a walk to load the bases. Weigand came on in relief of Estes in the toughest of spots, and struck out the next batter to retire the side. Weigand went the rest of the way, striking out nine batters in 8 and 1/3 innings. Estes finished with five strikeouts in 6 and 2/3 innings, allowing five hits along the way.
The Nook 23 Gold also had a bases-loaded opportunity in the 12th, when Bri Garber reached on a leadoff error. Garber stole second to put a runner in scoring position. With one out, Kisamore singled to left on a line drive, which was trapped by Morgan Edwards. Garber had to stay put to see if the ball would be caught, so the play ended with runners at first and second.
With two outs, a throwing error allowed both runners to move up a bag, giving the Nook 23 Gold two in scoring position. Blatt earned a base on balls to load them up for the Nook, but Weigand again got a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the threat.
The best scoring chance for Bloomington during the long dry spell was in the home seventh, when the Lady Hearts loaded the bases with one out.
Morgan Edwards doubled and was pinch-run for by Taylor Jordan. Ali Domkuski singled up the middle, but Jordan had to stay put at third after tripping on the base. Hunter Niebrugge was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Reilly Gearhart induced two fly balls to leave the bases loaded and send the game into extras.
Despite the loss, the Nook 23 Gold concluded their first WMS in impressive fashion, finishing the National Tournament in third place.