TIFFIN — An unlikely hero emerged late Wednesday afternoon and propelled Madison to the Elite Eight.
No. 9 hitter Paige Mowry’s run-scoring single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Hope Barrett from first base as the Rams stunned Lima Shawnee 9-8 in the Division II regional semifinals at the University of Findlay’s Paradiso Athletic Fields.
Madison (17-14) will play Keystone for the regional title at noon Saturday in Tiffin. Keystone beat Wauseon 8-2 in Wednesday’s late game.
Barrett reached on a fielder’s choice with the score tied 8-8 and two out in the bottom of the seventh, bringing Mowry to the plate. The senior quickly fell behind in the count at one ball and two strikes before eventually worked the count full.
With Barrett running on the pitch, Mowry lined Kaylee Grant’s offering into the gap in left center field. Barrett came all the way around from first to easily score the game-winning run without a play at the plate, sending the Madison faithful into a frenzy.
“I just hit it and watched it go,” said Mowry, who had three hits on the afternoon and scored a run in the bottom of the sixth as Madison overcame an 8-6 deficit. “I saw Hope running and I was like, ‘Please, just make it home.’ I knew we only needed one more run and she made it there. Then I started crying.
“I never thought that I would be the one to win that game for us.”
Madison coach Tim Niswander had all the confidence in the world in Mowry.
“We’ve been telling her for three years now that she’s capable of doing this,” Niswander said. “Then the last couple of weeks she’s gotten the bat around and put it in play. She’s done a little bit of everything and made it tough to defend.”
While Mowry provided the game-winning hit, she wasn’t the only hero for the Rams on Wednesday.
Madison fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first, but responded with a pair of runs in the home half of the frame. Kyleigh Reiter and Bailey Lyons each had RBI singles to cut Shawnee’s lead to 3-2.
The Rams tied it in the bottom of the second when Barrett singled, moved to third on Mowry’s double down the left field line and eventually scored on an errant throw.
Shawnee reclaimed the lead with a run in the top of the third, but Madison scored twice in the bottom of the inning to take 5-4 lead. Reagan Hayes doubled in a run and scored on Barrett’s single.
Shawnee went back on top with three runs in the fifth to make it 7-5, but again Madison responded when Reiter reached on an infield single and eventually scored on Hayes’ sacrifice fly to make it 7-6.
Shawnee’s Carmi Winegardner belted a solo home run in the top of the sixth to make it 8-6, but Madison tied it with two in the bottom of the inning. Bri Bowles and Olivia Schulz each knocked it a run.
“We answered every time they scored,” Niswander said. “They had three in the first and we answered with two in the first and one in the second. They got one in the third and we answered with two. They got three in the fifth and we answered. They got one in the sixth and we answered.
“Every at bat, I was confident we were going to score at least a run.”
Madison banged out 17 hits on the afternoon. Mowry and Lyons each had three hits.
“They hit the ball a little bit. We hit the ball a little bit more,” Niswander said. “They are a really good team.”
Madison will play for a regional championship for the third time in program history and the first time since 2013.
“I could not be happier for my bunch. They were resilient,” Niswander said. “They didn’t do everything right, but they did a lot right today.
“Holy cow, what a night.”