Just one inning after the Lady Braves connected on back-to-back home runs to take the two-run lead against Wesleyan in the Class AA state playoffs at the Columbus Softball Complex, Victoria Distasi delivered the walk-off counter punch to send the Lady Wolves into the state championship round with a 9-8 heartbreaker.
Heard County (32-7), which only loses three seniors to graduation, closes out the season with a third-place finish in Class AA and plenty of memorable moments on a tremendous campaign that culminated with one of the more gut-wrenching endings of the weekend.
And even though it wound up on the short end of the stick this time around, Hornsby couldn’t say enough about his talented team.
“That’s a whole program-changing group right there. If we make errors and have a bad game, yeah, we probably hang our head right there and say, ‘Hey, we gave it to them.’ But we didn’t give anything to them. They came up with a big hit and they won it. It’s as simple as that,” Hornsby said.
The Lady Braves, who got a run on an Anna Shelnutt solo shot in the first, rallied back from a 5-1 deficit, getting three runs in the top of the fifth to pull within 5-4 and then took the lead on a two-run bomb off the bat of senior outfielder Jasmine Cook in the top of the sixth. Sophomore shortstop Cali Harrod followed in the next at-bat, going yard to put Heard up 7-5 behind freshman hurler Jordan Watson.
But Wesleyan (29-11) had some big sticks of its own, getting runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh on a little bloop hit by Riley Henning and a free pass to Indiana University commit CaraMia Tsirigos — who had already hit one out earlier in the game.
And with the tying runners aboard, Victoria Distasi got just enough of Watson’s offering to clear the left-field wall and end the game in dramatic fashion.
Hornsby said Watson did everything you could ask for in that situation.
“Their leadoff hitter gets on right there with a jam shot that lands five feet off of the grass. I mean, that’s the worst luck possible. Our pitcher makes a heck of a pitch, and bad luck happens. We weren’t about to let their catcher [Tsirigos] beat us — there’s a reason why she’s a big-time D-I prospect with teams from all across the nation wanting her — that would be the reason why we pitched around her,” Hornsby said.
“Then we get in a 2-0 count right there [against Distasi] and we throw a change-up because we’re not throwing her anything hard, either. And she keeps her hands back and the wind’s blowing out ... If the wind’s not blowing out, we probably catch that ball. But that’s a freshman pitching right there and she just got better because of what happened for the next three years.”
Hornsby actually has quite a few of his core starters returning, including the entire infield. He is confident Heard County will be a team to reckon with on the state level for years to come.
He said it will hurt losing seniors such as Cook, Tiffany Smith and Alyssa Bishop, but he expects the returning players to bounce back with a vengeance.
“That one’s going to sting until we go back to work in June — and I hope it stings until we go to work in June. We need to get better from it and learn from it and make sure that we’re right back here next year,” Hornsby said.
Dade County (22-13) captured the Class AA state crown, bouncing back from an 8-7 loss to Wesleyan with an 8-3 win in the second game Saturday afternoon.