The Warwick West Side 12-year-old all-star softball team has made a habit of falling behind late in games this summer.
But it’s also made a habit of coming back.
West Side followed its familiar script again on Sunday night in the first game of the state tournament. Playing host team Elmwood – the District 1 champion – West Side rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the sixth, then walked-off in the seventh when Ashley Ferreira came home on a single by Kristiana Altieri for a 2-1 victory.
It was the second straight extra-inning, walk-off win for West Side, which captured the District 3 title last week by coming from five runs down in the bottom of the sixth before winning in the seventh.
West Side is now 4-0 on the summer, and has trailed in the sixth inning in three of those wins.
On Sunday, it was just business as usual.
“It’s unbelievable,” West Side manager Billy King said. “The girls never give up. They believe. We told them in the third or fourth inning and we were down 1-0, ‘Girls, down 1-0 for us is like winning.’ We’re used to coming back, so it wasn’t a big deal.”
West Side got a dominant effort from pitcher Gabby Scalzo, who struck out 12 Elmwood hitters and surrendered just two hits. Her only blemish of the night came in the fourth, when Geicy Pena hit a line drive off of Scalzo’s glove, scoring Cameille Keith.
That gave Elmwood a 1-0 lead, and with its pitcher Khadijah Antoine putting up zeros, that one run looked like it might be enough.
Antoine stranded a runner in the first and third, and she got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth. Up until the sixth inning, she had not allowed a hit.
“We made a lot of contact today, but we hit a lot of balls right at them,” King said. “We call them ‘atta-balls.’ Everything we hit, we hit right at them.”
In that sixth, though, West Side found a way. With one out, Jerriann Evans singled up the middle for West Side’s first hit of the afternoon.
With Katrina Kazen at the plate, Evans stole second outright on the first pitch, then took off for third on the second pitch. The throw from Elmwood catcher Joangely Mata was wide of the base and it got away on the infield, allowing Evans to come home with the tying run.
“We’ve practiced that since we started – be very aggressive on the basepaths,” King said. “If we’re aggressive on the basepaths, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. They have to execute perfectly.”
That sent the game to extras, and Elmwood got the top half started with an infield single from Destiny DeJesus. Antoine stepped in and hit a looping pop up over third base that looked like it was going to fall in, but Evans, the shortstop, made a lunging play ranging to her right for a crucial out.
Scalzo then retired the next two batters in order, sending the game to the bottom of the seventh still tied at one.
“They had a runner on first, and if that ball drops, that runner is on second if not third with the way that ball was spinning,” King said of Evans’ play. “That could have been big trouble for us. Jeriann made an unbelievable play. That’s why she’s our shortstop, because she’s the only one who can make that play.”
Antoine retired the first two West Side batters in the seventh before Ferreira worked a walk. She stole second on the first pitch to Altieri to get in scoring position, and Altieri made it count.
She laced an 0-1 pitch into right center. Elmwood fielded it well and had a shot at Ferreira at the plate, but the throw was off line and Ferreira came home with the winning run.
“In the seventh inning we had two outs and no one on and we were able to scratch together a run to win the game,” King said. “That’s just the way they feel. Anyone in this order can get on base and hit the ball. It makes it really fun to coach them.”
The win put West Side two wins away from a state title. It was scheduled to be back in action on Monday night against the winner of Sunday’s game between Portsmouth and Cumberland National, with the results unavailable at press time.
If West Side were to win that game, it would be in the title game this Thursday at 6 p.m. A loss would send West Side into the loser’s bracket, where it would play Wednesday at 6 p.m. All the games are at Elmwood Little League’s J.T. Owens Field.
West Side will just try to keep winning.
“That’s the way they feel. In the dugout, in between innings, whether we’re down 1-0 or 5-0 they just say, ‘It’s no big deal, we’ve done this before,’” King said. “That’s the way it was today.”