Walk-off squib hit costs Hawks their season against No. 3 Jesup
Volkmann limits top scoring team in 2A to 3 hits, but SH bats stay silent in regional semi
JESUP — Harry McMaken stood with his arms draped around seniors Krista Swenson and Leah Jacoby while their four classmates — Cortney Harris, Lily Skartvedt, Breanne Diersen and Taylor Volkmann — completed the circle at the edge of the dirt near right field as the sun set behind them Friday night.
South Hamilton’s head coach didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to say goodbye because, in a way, he knew it was goodbye forever.
“I’ve been around these seniors for six years and it’s tough,” McMaken said as he bit his lip to keep his emotions in check. “It hurts a lot right now.”
The hurt came in the form of a heartbreaking 1-0 walk-off loss to third-ranked Jesup in a Class 2A Region 1 semifinal on the J-Hawks home diamond.
With runners at second and third and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jesup No. 7 stick Andrea Gibbs hit a floating squib into no man’s land on the infield. South Hamilton second baseman Leah Jacoby had to play it on the hop, and she quickly fired to first, but a sliding Gibbs barely beat the throw as pinch-runner Jacie Lange scored from third to send the J-Hawks (30-9) into a celebration around home plate.
All Jacoby could do was kneel and stare straight at first base. She remained there for several moments before shortstop Jessi Harms pulled her up to her feet.
“It was a freak hit and there was nothing (Jacoby) could do,” McMaken said. “A squib hit that falls into that tweener zone that nobody can get to, it’s a tough way to lose the game.”
It was a cruel end for Volkmann, who was brilliant inside the circle for South Hamilton (19-10). The top scoring team in the class, Jesup entered the contest averaging 10 hits and 10.3 runs per game. Through six innings, Volkmann limited the J-Hawks to one hit and two base runners.
“Taylor pitched an outstanding game. That’s an outstanding hitting team and she shut them down,” McMaken said. “She didn’t have many strikeouts (four), but she kept them off-balance and had them.”
A one-out walk to Jacie Sadler kickstarted Jesup’s seventh inning. Two batters later, Breanne Fischels connected for her second single into right-center, this one a blooper that landed just out of the reach of a sliding Skartvedt. Lange, running for Sadler, raced to third and Fischels went to second on the relay throw home.
South Hamilton’s defense, which played error-free, did plenty to aid Volkmann’s gem. Skartvedt saved a double when she laid out to rob Sadler in deep left-center in the fourth inning. Harms tracked down a Gibbs foul ball past third base with a sliding catch in the fifth, and catcher Breanne Diersen made her own diving catch moments later on a foul ball off the bat of Alexis Larson.
“Defensively we played well the whole game,” McMaken said.
If only South Hamilton’s bats would have cooperated.
Diersen led off the game with a hard ground-ball single between short and third base, but it wasn’t a sign of things to come. South Hamilton’s only other hit came from Emma Lewis on a single down the right-field line in the third. Lewis and Diersen were at second and third when J-Hawks’ hurler Rhianna Bigwood wiggled out of the jam.
“We had our opportunity with runners on second and third, and a base hit would have made a big difference in the outcome,” McMaken said. “But it is what it is.”
As it turned out, Lewis was the Hawks final base runner.
Bigwood sat down the final 13 batters she faced. She struck out just one, but relied on her defense to keep South Hamilton handcuffed. Fischels, the J-Hawks’ second baseman, made six consecutive plays for outs during one stretch in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
“For some reason we were having difficulty timing (Bigwood) all night,” McMaken said. “She’s not an overpowering pitcher, but we might have been a little tentative.”
Jesup will host fifth-ranked East Marshall (30-4) in the regional final this evening for the right to advance to the state tournament next week. East Marshall scored three runs in the seventh inning to rally past Colfax-Mingo, 3-2, in the other regional semifinal Friday night.
Jesup 1, South Hamilton 0
Class 2A Region 1 Semifinal
Friday at Jesup
S. Ham 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Jesup 000 000 1 — 1 3 0
Taylor Volkmann and Breanne Diersen. Rhianna Bigwood and Andrea Gibbs. W — Bigwood. L — Volkmann. Multiple hits — Jesup: Breanne Fischels. RBI — Jesup: Gibbs.