Sam Key expected somebody to get the job done. But she was more than happy to do it herself.
Monroe High School’s senior third baseman experienced some walkoff joy Wednesday against previously unbeaten Badin, lining a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Hornets an 8-7 softball victory.
“When I hit that, the stands just erupted,” Key said. “It just felt so great to get that run in, especially since it’s Badin.”
With the score tied 7-7, Sarah Eschmeyer opened the Monroe seventh by reaching base on an error. Alexis Arnold followed with a double, and freshman Sam Schwab — who had singled, doubled, tripled and plated two runs — was intentionally walked.
Key, 0-for-3 at that point, then ripped the first pitch she saw from Nicole Rawlings into right field to end the game.
“I was pretty confident I had it,” Key said. “It was on me, and if I didn’t do it, Ashley McNabb had my back.”
“Sam struggled until that last at-bat, and you could tell she was dialed in,” Hornets coach Tim Kellis said. “It helped in the last inning that we had senior, senior, freshman, senior. These kids have just been fighters for four years. This is without question the class that’s turned this around for us.”
Mikayla Decker was 2-for-3 with a solo home run, Faith Hensley collected a double, a single and two runs, and Arnold and Jill Taylor added RBIs for Monroe (12-1).
It was a high-profile nonleague matchup for two teams that have been involved in a lot of not-very-close games this season.
“You’ve got to respect that program,” Kellis said. “That’s why we’re so excited. You don’t just beat a team when you beat Badin — you beat a program. You play quality teams like this to get ready for the tournament. Both teams made a couple mistakes. We just happened to get the last hit.
“I was real proud of my kids. They just don’t quit. They have so much belief in their hitting that they don’t feel they’re ever out of a game. But it looked bleak when it got to be 4-1.”
Hunter Salyers pitched the first four innings for the Hornets and allowed four unearned runs. Freshman Alyssa Wagner finished to get the win.
Rawlings went the distance in the circle for Badin (14-1). Four of the runs she gave up were unearned.
“I’ve told our girls, ‘The only way this team loses is when you beat yourselves,’ and they literally beat themselves today,” Rams coach Greg Stitzel said. “You’ve got to give Monroe credit. They did what they needed to do to win. But we beat ourselves with our style of play, plain and simple. Four errors … that’s not something we do very often.”
The Rams squandered 4-1, 6-4 and 7-6 leads. They moved ahead 7-6 in the sixth when Shelby Schmitt walked with the bases loaded, but that was the only run the visitors could get that inning.
Decker tied the game for the Hornets with a one-out home run to center in the bottom of the frame. It was her third homer in two days.
Schmitt had a pair of doubles and two RBIs for Badin, and Lauren Moser homered, singled and drove in three runs. Sam Sander and Josie Link chipped in RBIs.
Monroe posted a 4-1 record during a recent trip to Cocoa Beach, Fla. The Hornets lost to Merritt Island (Fla.) 2-0, allowing two unearned runs in the first inning.
“Four of the teams were really, really good. Merritt Island would be Division I here,” Kellis said. “The coaches talked about this trip, that it was either going to bring us together or pull us apart. I have to give the kids credit. They were focused down there. They went about their business, they had fun on the off days and beach days, and we had no issues at all.
“I really like the way we’re playing right now. With these kids, it’s all about the team. Charlie (Rose) is doing a great job with our pitchers. J.C. (Kellis) and Jeff (Eschmeyer) handle the defense. I just make out the lineup and let ’em play.”
The Ram will travel to Harrison on Thursday. Monroe hosts Purcell Marian on Friday.
WP — Alyssa Wagner (8-0); LP — Nicole Rawlings (14-1); HR — B: Lauren Moser; M: Mikayla Decker. Records: B 14-1, M 12-1