RICHMOND - The dream became a reality for Abby Taylor.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Taylor ripped a single to left to score Casey Gentile with the game-winning run to lift the Big Red softball team to a 5-4 victory over Beaver Local in an Ohio Division II Eastern District Sectional quarterfinal Monday at Jefferson Lake State Park.
"I knew I had to hit the ball," Taylor said. "I wanted to hit it hard and put it in play."
Big Red (12-14) advances to take on Indian Creek in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Taylor's base hit capped Big Red's two-run rally in the seventh inning.
"I felt relieved," Taylor said. "I felt so relieved."
In the seventh, Mytia Barker and Gentile drew back-to-back walks to start the inning.
Barker advanced to third base on two wild pitches, the second of which moved Gentile into scoring position at second.
After a strikeout and a popup, Big Red was down to its final out, but Lauren Gray was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Next, Brittany Bodo collected an infield single down the third base line scoring Barker to tie the score at 4. Then, Taylor stepped to the plate and the junior center fielder belted the ball past the Beavers' shortstop to win the game.
"She has been on a tear," first-year Big Red head coach Gus DiMarzio said about his team's No. 9 hitter. "I'm guessing, but she is something like 11 for 15 in our last few games. Her mom was a Division I softball player and her dad is Jamie Taylor, who is a legend in the Ohio Valley. He was a great player. He played in the Indians organization for a number of years, but I'll take Abby. I'll take her."
Anna Perrino picked up the win. Perrino recorded eight strikeouts and three walks.
Beaver Local outhit Big Red, 7-6, but Big Red delivered the two-biggest hits of the game.
Individually, Christina Archer recorded two singles and two RBIs and Tenia Barker and Gentile each tallied base hits. Though she did not produce a hit, Mytia Barker reached base four times, including walking three times.
Maranda Kiddey took the loss for the Beavers. Kiddey struck out five and walked six. Beaver Local made five errors resulting in three unearned runs. Big Red's only two earned runs came in the seventh.
Offensively, the Beavers relied on the long ball for their offense. Three of Beaver Local's seven hits went for extra bases, including two that sailed over the fence for home runs.
Kiddey helped her cause with a single and a solo home run, Ashley Riley belted a three-run home run and Jackie Davis delivered a double.
Big Red put pressure on the Beavers in all seven innings as Big Red had at least one runner reach base in all seven innings, but Big Red was only able to push runs across in two innings. Big Red had four runners thrown out trying to score runs.
The game got off to a good start for the Beavers. With two outs in the top of the first, Kiddey blasted a home run over the fence in left to put Beaver Local ahead 1-0.
In the bottom of the first, Tenia Barker singled. She stole second base, and she moved to third when the throw from Witherow hit her and bounced away. Next, Carmie Biasi bunted the ball. Biasi was thrown out at first, and Tenia Barker was thrown out at the plate as she tried to score on the play.
Then with two outs, Mytia Barker reached on an error, and Gentile tallied a base hit. The base runners moved up on a wild pitch. Big Red had runners on second and third, but Kiddey struck out Brooke Carroll to end the threat.
In the second, Archer led off with a single, and she stole second base. She moved to third on a groundout. Then, Bodo bunted the ball. She ended up being thrown out at first, and Archer was tagged out at third after she was unable to get back to the bag after attempting to score on the play. Kiddey got out of the inning with a groundout.
Big Red was finally able to break through - thanks to some help by the Beavers - in the third.
With two outs, Mytia Barker and Gentile were issued back-to-back free passes. Then, Carroll reached on an error to score Big Red's first run and Archer followed with a base hit scoring Gentile and Carroll giving Big Red a 3-1 advantage.
"I am proud of the girls," DiMarzio said. "Any time you win a sectional game, you are happy, but to win a sectional game like that where you have to battle until the end says a lot about our girls and our program. Our program is moving in the right direction.
"We are trying to rebuild our program. We are trying to get back to what it once was, so this is a step in the right direction. Now, we want to take things one step further."
Big Red maintained the lead until the sixth.
Witherow led off the sixth with a walk. Kiddey followed with a hard-hit single, and both runners came around to score on Riley's three-run home run to right-center. The line-drive home run bounced off of the flag pool just behind the fence enabling the Beavers to regain the lead at 4-3.
Big Red had a golden opportunity to get on the scoreboard in the sixth, but failed to push a run across.
Archer and Gray reached on errors to start the inning. Big Red loaded the bases with no outs when Bodo was hit by a pitch, but Kiddey managed to pitch herself out of harms way with two forceouts at home and a fly ball to center.
"Baseball and softball are funny sports," DiMarzio said. "It comes down to timely hits. When you don't get them, as a coach you become frustrated. I kept telling the girls the hits will come. We got them when we needed them. I guess you have to believe what you preach."
Her groundout in the sixth motivated Taylor as she stepped to the plate in the seventh.
"It's all about competition," she said.
Taylor's hit enabled Big Red to advance to the semifinals for the second-straight season.
"It feels really good," Taylor said. "It feels really good to do this."
Last season, Big Red defeated Beaver Local, 7-0, in the quarterfinals before falling to the Redskins, 7-0, in the semifinals.
"We have been up-and-down and up-and-down," DiMarzio said. "We didn't know what team was going to show up. The right team showed up today.
"This is a testament to the type of kids we have at the high school. We believe we have tough kids. Our kids will battle until the end, and they will continue to fight when there is nothing more to fight for. We are continuing to grow and continuing to build. Things fell our way today."
Taylor said she is excited about playing the Redskins.
"Absolutely," she said. "It is always a fun game when we play them."
DiMarzio knows his team is in for a challenge.
"They are good," he said. "They are well coached. They hit the ball hard.
"They are solid one through nine. They have a good pitcher. They should make a good run in the playoffs.
"We are going to have to come ready to play. We have nothing to lose. Hopefully, things will go our way."
Sectional action continues today at 5 p.m. as Edison plays Buckeye Local in the first semifinal of the tournament.
Big Red 5, Beaver Local 4
Beaver Local 100 003 0 - 4 7 5
Big Red 003 000 2 - 5 6 0
BEAVER LOCAL: Kiddey (LP, 5K, 6BB) and Witherow; Frampton S; Witherow S; Kiddey S, HR, RBI; Riley HR, 3RBI; Davis D.
BIG RED (12-14): Perrino (WP, 8K, 3BB) and M. Barker; T. Barker S; Gentile S; Archer 2S, 2RBI; Bodo S, RBI; Taylor S, RBI.