With runners on second and third and just one out in the bottom of the seventh, Raceland coach Shawn Johnson opted to play the percentages and walk Sara Hieneman to load the bases and set up a potential force play at home plate.
Johnson’s gamble brought to the plate Abby Gambill, who made sure the house won yet again.
The senior delivered a walk-off single to right field to propel the Russell past Raceland, 6-5, on Monday night at Russell High School.
“We put Hieneman on, not because we wanted to pitch to (Gambill), but because we wanted to set up a force at every base,” Johnson said. “We were trying to do whatever we could to get out of that jam. If the pitch is maybe a foot lower, that turns into a double play. It is a game of inches.”
After losing four straight games, Russell coach Carol Stevens spoke to her team about the importance of teamwork before Monday night’s game, and said it was fitting that Gambill, a team captain, was the one who delivered.
“To have Abby Gambill, a senior leader come up with that hit,” Stevens said with a pause as she held back tears. “That was just the ultimate. I am so proud of her.”
Raceland (13-4) nearly made it five straight losses for the Lady Devils, when it scored three times in the top of the seventh to claim a 5-4 advantage heading to the home half of the inning.
Madison Johnson plated the first run of the inning with a double to right center field. A grounder to second base allowed the tying run to score as the Lady Devils opted to try and get the runner at home, but were unsuccessful. Kymbria Williams drove in the go ahead run with a sacrifice fly to left.
Williams was 2-for-3 with a double to lead Raceland.
Russell (10-8) would quickly knot the game a 5 apiece in the bottom of the seventh aided by a pair of Raceland miscues.
Emma Ison, who walked to lead off the inning, was able to advance to third when Mallory Powell’s single to right field was mishandled. Never coming to a complete stop, the speedy Ison took home as when the throw back from third base sailed over pitcher Kelsey Diller’s head.
With the recent string of struggles, Stevens said it was important for her team to respond well to some adversity.
“What a team effort,” she said. “We had a discussion before the game about playing as a team, and from the first pitch they did that. They dug in and did not let (giving up the lead) hurt them.”
The seventh inning was the second time the Lady Devils took full advantage of Raceland errors. Russell scored four times in the first inning thanks in large part to a pair of fielding blunders.
“We are a solid team.” Shawn Johnson said of his team, which committed four errors. “Tonight the ball just didn’t bounce our way.”
RACELAND 100 100 3 — 5 7 4
RUSSELL 400 000 2 — 6 6 2
Diller and Curley. Powell and Gullett. W – Powell. L – Diller. 2B: Johnson (Ra), Williams (Ra), Diller (Ra), Powell (Ru).