Day, Westview shock Jesuit in 8-3 win
Kelsey Day disappeared into a sea of dark blue, red and white jerseys, stomped on home plate and triggered a riotous mosh pit of screaming teammates pounding her helmet in triumphant celebration.
In a tight spot, in a big game with playoff implications hanging in the balance, the Wildcats always comes through.
Down to her last strike, her team staring down a 3-2 deficit with two outs in the top of the seventh against Jesuit on Friday, Day did what's frankly become accustomed to the Wildcat program. Facing Jesuit ace Olivia Strickland, waited on a ball that was left up in the strike zone and launched a towering three-run shot over the left field fence to claim a 5-3 lead, Westview's first lead of the contest.
And for good measure, sophomore Kendra Hutchinson came off the bench and belted a three-run jack of her own to up Westview's lead to 8-3. Jesuit couldn't rebut in the bottom of the seventh against freshman pitcher Julia Jordan as Westview pulled off yet another white-knuckle, on-the-edge-of-your-seat 8-3 win on Friday at Jesuit High.
"Our team really has a burning passion to win," Westview centerfielder Reece Martin said. "Even when things aren't going well, we're all on the same page and we all want to win. Kelsey hitting a bomb like that comes from believing in yourself, which comes from the team. When you're down and you feel the team's energy it brings you back up. It picks you out of the hole that you're in and makes everything go amazing."
A right-handed power hitter who's had her fair share of success when the chips are down before, Day said on the game-deciding bomb she calmed herself down and simply focused on putting the ball in play. After Martin beat out an infield single with one out, Taylor Alto walked to put the tying run in scoring position for Day. Schematically the senior third baseman scooted back in the batter's box to improve her vantage point against Strickland's pitch, which Day promptly sent soaring and dumped over the banner-covered left field fence into the forest. For Day, who hit her first high school home run on Jesuit's turf three years ago, the three-run blast helped her career come full circle.
"My mind was going a little crazy," Day said with a smile. "You dream of having those big hits and having your team celebrate around you."
Clutch is what the Wildcats do. Go back to the days of Kylie Alto, Katie Whetstine, Mia Patino and Jodeci Tuia. Their history of coming up clutch in the most implausible scenarios is steeped in tradition. At this point, Westview's reputation for pulling out improbable moments precedes itself. The mammoth home runs, go-ahead hits and memorable wins throughout the years all stem from the same source, Martin says, Westview's undeniable wave of positive energy that starts on the field, flows to the dugout and crescendos with Hollywood-like endings. It's why you see Westview celebrate each other's successes with such emotion. The Cats genuinely care about each other and that chemistry comes out in unbridled joy.
"You can't fake that type of energy," Martin said. "We get so hyped. We could be winning 10-0 when someone hits a home run and we'd still have the same energy. I think it's just us being so excited for each other, which is so important and why I believe we get those hits. When someone comes through, we all freak out, the players, the people on the bench, the parents. Everyone is just super into it."
"We really want everyone on our team to succeed and to do well," Day said.
The Crusaders were literally a strike away from escaping with what would've been their best win of the season, hands down. After allowing runners into scoring position in the fourth and fifth inning but evading any damage, Jesuit could smell victory. Instead, with one swing Day and Westview went from one pitch away from taking a loss, to a two-run lead.
In the bottom of the second, Jesuit junior second baseman Sammie Petitt swung the first pitch she saw from Mia Patino, slapping a single back up the box that scored two and drew first blood in the best softball rivalry in the Metro League, 2-0. Jesuit junior Jenny Marnin added an RBI triple to left in the third, a shot just outside the reach of the Wildcat outfield to nudge the Crusaders' lead to 3-0. Marnin was a defensive menace in the infield, robbing a potential Patino single in the second inning with a diving stop and scoop to Petitt at second. Westview tried to put down a suicide squeeze with Kendall Gantz at the dish, but Jesuit sniffed it out and as Maya Williams and Strickland came in to cover the bunt, Gantz missed the attempt. Marnin sagely sprinted over to third and catcher Annalisa Williamson ripped a beam to the covering shortstop at third for the final out.
Yet, Patino stroked a two-run single to left to bring Westview within 3-2 in the fourth. Jordan, who relieved Patino in the fourth, was awesome in the circle. The left-handed freshman yielded just one hit, a harmless infield single in the seventh, in four innings of work and allowed just one runner past first base. Her winning efforts on the mound were paramount in helping Westview mount the late comeback and ultimately helped Day land the deciding blow. The Crusaders never felt truly comfortable protecting the slim one-run lead, playing with fire in the later innings by allowing Westview to get on base until Day burned them.
Alto, Patino and Martin all made spectacular catches throughout the contest. Patino and Martin both fearlessly stood in the path of a scorched close line shot and caught it coolly in the outfield. Following Marnin's RBI triple, Alto ranged over from short and made an awesome catch on the dead run for the final out of the third stanza.
Martin led Westview (10-4, 5-0) with a team-high three hits while Patino added two. Petitt had two hits for the Crusaders. Westview has another big Metro showdown on Monday, this time against Glencoe who is also undefeated in Metro. Jesuit (8-7, 4-1) takes on Liberty, Century and Glencoe next week.