MILES - The Easton Valley River Hawks rallied from seven runs down to stay alive after the first round of the postseason, beating East Buchanan 14-12 at home on Monday night to move to the next round.
The River Hawks swept the Buccaneers when they saw them earlier this year 16-13, 12-5.
The win did not come without a little bit of drama. The River Hawks struggled on multiple fronts to start the game with some sloppy defense, struggling pitchers and base running decisions that ended in outs. They fell behind the Buccaneers quickly.
"We came out flat and didn't decide to play until the fourth inning," head coach Taylor Bell said. "I think we came out expecting the win instead of having to work for the win."
Keeping with the theme of the game, the tying run crossed on an error in the bottom of the fifth for the River Hawks. Zoe Espirdon hit a grounder to the infield and the throw went over the first baseman's head. That kept Espirdon safe, River Hawk runners at the corners, and a run in to bring the score 9-9.
The go-ahead was on a walk and passed ball, which allowed that third base runner to cross the plate. The River Hawks ended up scoring five runs in total, to take a 13-9 lead into the sixth inning. They rode that out from there.
That's after the River Hawks trailed by eight runs earlier in the game. Starter Jaysie Woods struggled in the circle. There were 13 total walks thrown by the two Easton Valley pitchers, including five in the third inning alone.
"We planned, before the game started, to make a switch because this team hadn't seen Jaysie yet," Bell said. "She's coming off an injury a few weeks ago and since that she's either been on or off. Today just wasn't her day."
It didn't help that the offense wasn't backing up the defensive effort to start. The first inning four runners reached base but none scored, with two of the three outs coming from pick-offs. Those weren't the only two throughout the game, either.
"We've been working on being better on being aggressive," Bell said. "I got a little ahead of myself, but I've seen some good things when we've been aggressive. I like being aggressive because it keeps other teams on their toes."
Calli Beck took over in the circle and the River Hawk defense cleaned things up. The fourth and fifth innings looked sharp in the infield, notching quick outs and allowing the bats to have a chance.
"We're a come back team," Bell said. "We tend to play a little harder when we know we have to. We get too comfortable thinking 'we have this game'. "
The River Hawks picked up five runs in the bottom of the third inning, including drawing their own handful of walks. They plated one more in the fourth to pull within one run at 9-8. The five-run fifth inning capped off the rally.
Even then, the River Hawks weren't completely out of the woods. The Bucs plated two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, causing Bell to call a mound meeting.
"I go in and ask her what's working for you," Bell said. "Then I look at the girls and say we can't let her do it herself."
They got a pick off at third to end in, a relief to the fans in orange with the tying run on the bases for East Buchanan.
Zoe Espirdon had an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth to extend the lead back to three.
With the bases loaded in the top of the seventh and the game on the line, Renee Hartung made a clutch catch in short center field. A passed ball put another run in and cut the lead to two but Jaysie Woods did the same thing the next batter at second base.
The River Hawks (8-27) move on in the bracket to take on Lisbon on Wednesday night on the road. The Lions, who have just six losses this year, are ranked No. 2 in the state.