SETH — The Man High School softball team is just one win away from making another appearance in the state tournament in Vienna.
The Lady Billies advanced to the Class A Region 3 championship game with Thursday night’s thrilling, come-from-behind 6-5 win at Sherman in the regional semifinals.
Down 5-4 after five innings of play, Man’s Casey Albright came up with a huge two-out clutch base hit in the top of the sixth inning scoring Tabby Ferguson and Micayla Gibson. It proved to be the game-winner.
Ferguson also hit a home run for the Lady Billies.
Man senior pitcher Taylor Tomblin then closed the door in the last two innings to preserve the win.
The Lady Billies had went 1-3 during the regular season against Sherman, losing a pair of one-run games, winning by one run and falling 11-1 to Sherman in Buffalo’s Best of the Best Tournament.
Man, 19-5 and winners of 10 straight games, are now in the driver’s seat and will host next Thursday night’s Class A Region 3 championship game against Fayetteville (14-15), which routed Montcalm 26-0 in Thursday night’s other regional semifinal. The Lady Billies did not play Fayetteville during the regular season.
Man hasn’t been to the state tourney since 2010 when the Lady Billies’ bid for a historic three straight Class A state championships was foiled by South Harrison. Man had won state titles in 2008 and 2009. Man’s senior class, including Tomblin, played as freshmen on the Lady Billies’ 2010 state tourney team.
Man head coach Randy Epperly said he was thrilled with the win but acknowledged that his team nearly gave it away.
“We tried every way to give them this game,” Epperly said. “We made too many mistakes and our base running just killed us. But you know it was sheer determination on their part. The girls battled to the end and we won. Tabby Ferguson’s home run there to tie the game up was the key. We got the momentum and the girls got fired up and believed in themselves. And then Casey later came up with the big hit for us. It really was sheer determination.”
Man got on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Kelly Grimmett led off with a walk off Sherman pitcher Kylie Wells. Grimmett then stole second and went to third on Summer Sword’s ground out. Emilee Osborne then delivered an RBI single scoring Grimmett to make it 1-0. Cari Blair reached on an infield hit. Madison Keffer then struck out and Tomblin grounded out to end the inning.
The Tide battled back and took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning off Tomblin. Bayless Harless led off and was hit by a Tomblin pitch. Jordan Lewis then ripped a two-run homer over the center field fence for the 2-1 advantage. Tomblin then got Sherman out in order.
Man looked to tie the game in the top of the second but two costly base running mistakes killed the rally.
In the bottom of the third Sherman took a 3-1 lead with an RBI single by MacKenzie Smith.
Again, Man battled back in the top of the fourth.
Tomblin got it started as she ripped a double to the right field fence with one out. Ferguson stepped up to the plate and then blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence to tie it up 3-3.
Sherman, though, responded in the home half of the fourth inning off Tomblin. Hali Jarrell reached on a walk and Taylor Hendricks followed with a two-run homer to make it 5-3 in favor of the Tide.
The Lady Billies got one of the runs back in the top of the fifth off Wells. Grimmett reached on an error and Sword got on with a fielder’s choice. She then stole second and went to third on a ground out by Osborne. Then with two outs, Sword took home on a passed ball to make it 5-4.
Man rallied again in the top of the sixth inning with two outs.
Ferguson got it rolling by drawing a walk. Micayla Gibson singled and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Albright then came up with a big two-run single up the middle to give Man the lead for good at 6-5.
Sherman tried to come back in the bottom of the sixth as Hendricks walked with one out. Demi Jarrell then singled and Whitney Laws laid down a sacrifice bunt to move runners to second and third but Tomblin got Harless to fly out to Grimmett in left field to end the threat.
Man went out quietly in the top of the seventh frame as Wells got Sword to fly out and Osborne and Blair were retired on ground outs.
Sherman was down to its last at bats in the bottom of the seventh, needing at least a run to send the game into extra innings.
Tomblin got the leadoff batter Lewis to fly out to center.
Smith then ripped a single.
The Tide’s Paige Halstead then hit a come-backer to Tomblin at the mound and was retired 1 to 3 for the second out.
Man then secured the victory as Jarrell grounded out to Blair at shortstop for out number three.
The Lady Billies had seven hits in the win. Albright led the way with two outs and knocked in two runs. Ferguson had one hit with the homer. Osborne, Tomblin and Gibson each had a hit.
Sherman had five hits, including the two home runs off the bats of Lewis and Hendricks. Smith added two singles for the Tide.
Man now shifts its focus to next Thursday night’s Class A Region 3 championship game with Fayetteville. Game time is set for 5:30 p.m. at Man.
Fayetteville comes into the game riding a five-game winning streak. The Pirates breezed in their sectional tourney with wins over Midland Trail (6-2) and Richwood (9-1 and 10-4).
The Pirates have played a difficult schedule, losing a pair of games to Class A state power Buffalo (11-1 and 9-1) and also falling to Class AAA Huntington (9-0). Fayetteville has also played 3A Beckley and 2A teams Wyoming East, Westside and Nicholas County.
Buffalo (30-4) downed Wahama 13-4 on Thursday night to advance to next week’s Region 4 championship game against Doddridge County.
All four regional winners advance to play in the Class A state tourney, set for May 22-23 at Vienna.