By Garth Shanklin
The Milford Lady Eagles and West Clermont Lady Wolves had already met twice this season before squaring off in the sectional tournament on Wednesday, May 9.
Each team defended their home turf, with Milford earning a come-from-behind win in the first meeting and West Clermont dominating the second.
When the two squads were matched up against each other for a third time, it was hard to predict what would happen.
With storm clouds rolling in, both teams used timely hitting to take late leads, but Milford’s home-field advantage was the difference in a 4-3, walkoff victory.
“It was back and forth,” West Clermont head coach Kelly Throckmorton said. “One run here, one run there. Tied up again. It was back and forth, it was a good ballgame.”
Milford started the scoring in the bottom of the first. Sydnee Harris dropped down a bunt for a single, then moved to second on a single by Lynn Varner. One out later, Emily Allphin singled, scoring Harris. Varner was thrown out at the plate for the second out.
The Lady Wolves tied the game in the top of the fourth.
Jordyn McPhillips singled on a ground ball to left field, then was erased on a fielder’s choice, which allowed Maddie Beasley to reach base. She would score one batter later on a double by Reece Hampton to tie the game at one.
The tie lasted a little over one inning. With two outs, Varner singled to center and Katelyn Reynolds singled to right. Allphin smacked a ball to shortstop that just fell in for a hit, allowing Varner to score to make it a 2-1 Milford lead.
West Clermont wasted no time tying the game up. Nicole Brown reached via error on the third baseman, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a single into center field by Beasley, tying the game at two.
The Lady Wolves took their first lead in the top of the seventh. Kinsey Ventura reached base with one out via an error on the shortstop. She scored on a double by Riley Hampton to put the Lady Wolves ahead 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Sam Boothby tripled to start the inning, and scored on a sac fly by Varner, the second out of the inning. Reynolds reached base via error on the first basemen and scored on a double by Allphin into deep center field, giving Milford the 4-3 walkoff win.
“We were persistent,” Milford head coach Christy Gregory said. “We had a plan, we knew we had to out-hit the other team. I know that doesn’t sound like rocket science, but we knew we had to score runs. We know that we have to be a factor in every inning.”
Ventura and Varner led both teams with three hits each. Varner drove in a run and scored once herself. Defensively, the Lady Wolves only made one error, but it was a costly one, as it allowed the winning run to reach base.
“We played good defense,” Throckmorton said. “They had a lot of well-placed, drop-in base hits that landed in no-mans land. That really didn’t help, but they’re a good team that played well. The kids fought hard, it could have gone either way but I’m proud of the team.”
Throckmorton added her thoughts on the team’s season as a whole, now that the first year of West Clermont softball has come to an end.
“We had a great season,” Throckmorton said. “We finished 18-7, with this game. We played strong, hit the ball well all year with solid defense and good pitching. For our first season combining two schools, I think the kids did a great job supporting each other with quality play.”
The Lady Wolves have three seniors on their roster, including Brown and McPhillips.
“They had a lot of heart,” Throckmorton said. “They all fought, they all did their role and played well. They played strong all year long and they’ll be missed.”
Milford, meanwhile, was able to find the hits they needed to put runs on the board, according to Gregory.
“We did a lot of nice things,” Gregory said. “I think there were two or three double plays, which is unheard of in softball. We had some opportunities in clutch situations to get big hitters out, and they did that and turned the double plays.”
Whenever the Lady Eagles needed a hit, it seemed like Allphin was at the plate. She came through, driving in three of the team’s four runs.
“She got in a position where she could take her pitches and we know that’s her best, when she can go up there, see a few pitches and be in control of the at-bat,” Gregory said.
The win set up a rematch for the Lady Eagles against Ursuline Academy, a team that defeated Milford during the regular season.
Hillary Huffer didn’t allow history to repeat itself, pitching seven innings, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three. Varner finished with one hit in two at-bats, an RBI and a steal. Harris added a double for the Lady Eagles.
Milford now faces Lakota East in the district finals, the Lady Eagles’ third trip to districts in the last four years. The date, time and location of that game were not made public as of this writing.