By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
Last spring, the Geneva softball team did a lot of waiting and hoping for the pieces to fall into place to give them a share of the Premier Athletic Conference championship. Things fell into place, but the whole experience left the Eagles wishing to put the issue to bed before it reached that point again this season.
With a 2-1, come-from-behind victory over Riverside in nine innings at Geneva on Tuesday, the Eagles tucked away the outright league championship.
“It’s amazing,” senior shortstop Sarah Depp said. “We didn’t even know we could win it last year. It’s nice to have it out of the way.”
“It means a lot,” senior hurler Amy Pitcher said. “The whole teams puts in a lot of time. At the beginning of the year, it was one of our goals to win the PAC. And we didn’t want to share it.”
“It was a great game,” Geneva coach Eleshia Pitcher said. “We really wanted the PAC outright. Last year, we had to have help.”
It was Depp’s aggressive thinking that led to the Geneva victory.
After reaching on an error to lead off the home half of the ninth, Depp moved up as Alyssa Donato followed with a walk.
Depp then made a suggestion to Eleshia Pitcher.
“I’m fast,” she said. “(Scoring from second) is what I use my speed for. I told Eleshia we had to bunt. They overthrew three other bunts in the game.
“It was called for Becky (Depp) and no one covered third. I felt I could get home easily.”
Becky Depp eventually went down on strikes, but Kylie Hansen got the bunt down and Sarah Depp easily rounded third and headed home, scoring the game-winner for the Eagles (13-2, 10-1) when the throw to first sailed high.
“When I am on second and there’s a base hit, I’m going home given my speed,” Sarah Depp said. “Eleshia counts on me to do that.”
“We were trying to get Becky to get one down,” Eleshia Pitcher said. “Kylie doesn’t even normally bunt. Sarah said that if (Kylie) got it down, she would score. Kylie did a great job getting the bunt down and Sarah scored.
“I don’t even think they were expecting Kylie to bunt.”
It was a tough loss to take for the Beavers (18-3, 7-3).
“One ball (Geneva hit) left the infield,” Riverside coach Bill Ross said. “It’s a devastating loss, a tough loss. Geneva played a great game.”
Amy Pitcher (11-2) got the win. She allowed an earned run on five hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out eight.
“I threw different pitches,” she said. “I didn’t throw the same pitch twice in a row. There were times we tried to make them pop it up.
“I’m really confident in the fielders behind me and I knew the bats would get going and we’d score.”
Riverside pitcher Kayla Lynch (13-3) might have deserved a better fate. She fanned 15, walked four and hit a batter. Neither of the two runs she allowed were earned.
The Eagles had six hits and none of them reached the outfield grass. They took advantage of six Riverside errors.
“I don’t know how many errors we had, you guys probably know the answer to that,” Ross said. “There were definitely quite a few.”
The contest remained scoreless through five innings with the Eagles and Beavers combining to strand 13 runners, eight of them in scoring position.
“I had decided we were never going to score,” Eleshia Pitcher said. “I just kept telling them to put it in play. We faced a slower pitcher (Monday) and we were having trouble timing Kayla. She did a good job. I kept telling them to put it in play and something would happen.”
Riverside broke through in the top of the sixth.
“(Battling every inning to keep the game scoreless) doesn’t bother me, really,” Amy Pitcher said. “I’m confident my team can pull it off. For some reason, we have the ability to come back after we go down.”
Lynch was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and took second on a passed ball. She scored when Maggie Palumbo singled back up middle.
The Eagles answered in the bottom half of the inning.
“Usually, when we’re down, we play harder,” Eleshia Pitcher said.
Sydney McCaleb reached on a one-out infield single and moved up on a ground out. She went to third when Amy Pitcher singled off of Lynch’s glove. Sarah Depp brought her home when she reached on an error.
The Beavers went down in order in the seventh and left runners stranded at first and second in the eighth.
“Amy’s a great pitcher,” Ross said. “Give her credit. She kept our batters off balance. There were two great pitchers going at it.”
Lynch retired Geneva in order in the seventh and eighth.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.