Prep softball: Greenway tops Esko with epic comeback
Unbeaten Raiders hit three homers in seventh to rally from 6-0 deficit.
ESKO — Legend has it that Babe Ruth once predicted his own home run during a World Series game at Wrigley Field.
Greenway’s Miranda Gernander, herself a pitcher and hitter like Ruth in his early days, did the Babe one better Tuesday.
She drilled a three-run home run in the seventh inning and then predicted teammate Kennedy Hanson would hit a game-winning homer on a windy, warm spring day at Esko Sports Complex.
Hanson obliged with a two-run shot over the left-field fence to finish off an amazing comeback in a 7-6 nonconference softball victory, keeping the Raiders’ hopes of an undefeated season alive.
“Right as she got two strikes on her, I said, ‘She’s going to hit a home run right here,’ ” Hanson said afterward. “I had full faith in (Kennedy).”
Gernander then went out and shut down Esko in the bottom of the seventh as Greenway, hitless until scoring six runs on six hits — three of them homers — in the top of the seventh, improved to 19-0 with one game remaining in the regular season.
“We’re a very competitive team and we do get down sometimes, but we never give up,” senior shortstop Claire Vekich said. “That’s the special thing about our team. Even though it’s the seventh inning and we’re down by five runs, we never give up and keep fighting. It’s worked well in our favor.”
Esko (12-6) built a 6-0 lead with a five-run fifth, and most of the drama revolved around whether pitcher Miranda Kelley could no-hit the powerful Raiders, who entered averaging more than 10 runs per game, and not if Greenway could keep its winning streak going.
Kelley, who struck out seven and walked five, allowed her first run in the sixth as Vekich walked, advanced to third on two wild pitches and then scored when she knocked the ball out of the catcher’s glove on a play at the plate.
The Raiders busted loose in the final inning, starting with Jadin Saville’s solo homer.
“That was crazy,” Vekich said of the inning. “Our bats haven’t struggled that much the entire season. We couldn’t get our bats going until the seventh inning. Jadin started us off with a home run and everyone else followed.”
Ava Johnson and Jocelyn Mikilich each singled, setting the stage for Gernander’s one-out homer.
Gernander, who allowed five earned runs on nine hits, was upset with her pitching performance that only included one strikeout as opposed to five base on balls.
“I was not happy, but I knew somehow we were going to pull through,” she said. “We always hold each other up. If one of us isn’t having a good game, then the other ones have to make up for it.”
Smacking Kelley’s 1-0 offering over the center-field fence kept the rally going, cutting the Eskomos’ lead to 6-5.
Vekich walked for the fourth time in a row and was on third when Hanson fulfilled Gernander’s premonition by depositing her last-gasp home run to left.
“It shows how we grind and don’t give up,” Hanson said. “We never stop and keep fighting.”
Esko coach Jeff Emanuel was unfazed by the Raiders’ comeback — and the home runs — in a matchup of Section 7AA playoff contenders.
“The wind was helping them out but they crushed them,” he said. “They were no-doubters.”
After a 10-0 start, Esko has lost six of its last eight games. Emanuel doesn’t believe that’s an indicator of his team’s playoff fate and is excited to begin the postseason next week.
“I told the girls today that they are a couple clicks away from being on full cylinders,” he said. “Once we get on that full cylinder, we’ll see what happens in the playoffs. We’ve been working on things the past couple weeks and we’re coming around. I’m really not worried at all.”
Greenway 7, Esko 6
WP: Miranda Gernander 7IP, 5ER, 9H, 5BB. LP: Miranda Kelley 7IP, 6ER, 6H, 7K, 5BB. G: scored 6 runs in 7th inning; Gernander 3R-HR in 7th; Claire Vekich 2R, 4BB; Kennedy Hanson 2R-HR in 7th; Hannah Anderson 2B; Jadin Saville HR. E: Kelley 2x3; Amber Carlblom 2B; Maya Emanuel 2x4; Sydney Grayson 2R, 2BB.