CHARLES TOWN – Jefferson’s momentum didn’t stop Wednesday night with their monster win over Hampshire.
It didn’t go away Thursday night after Washington tied the game at three in the second inning.
It didn’t go away when the Patriots took a 5-3 lead going into the top of the seventh.
But it may be dwindling after Hannah Ruffner shocked the Cougars with a solo, walk-off homer over the left field fence in the bottom of the eighth.
Needless to say, if the Cougars momentum is still intact, Saturday is going to be an interesting game.
Taking the early lead in the first inning, Jefferson put up three runs to Washington’s one. Big hitter Isabella O’Bannion would put the first run on the board for Jefferson with a low-flying single in the center field hole. Lacie Lewis capped the inning with a shot towards Kylie Condon who nearly picked the ball off until it bounced wide off of the tip of her glove to give Cunningham a safe lane home.
After the rare miss, Condon zeroed in batters and locked down the hot corner, letting just one other ball by her. Condon's dominate performance, or as head coach Amanda Orkoskey would put it “a heck of a game,” was a shockwave felt through the Cougar dugout and beyond into the crowd.
A little rusty after a week off from playing, Orkoskey relayed after the dust had settled that her motivation for the girls came down to, “How bad do you want this? Are you going to let them come into your house and get those runs out, and then drop your head?”
“I told them, ‘Just play our game, we haven’t even hit yet so let’s go put some runs on the board,” Orkoskey said.
So, that's what they did.
Mackenzie Myers found home in the following half off of error by Rachel Cunningham in left field following a deep shot by Condon.
Myers opened the batting order once again in the bottom of the second to pick up a two-run double and tying the game, putting in Katie Dubyak and Jordyn Brown. Taylor Cenate then pitched into a brick wall defense for the second defensive 1-2-3 of the game.
With both teams going scoreless until the fifth, Cenate broke the ice in the bottom of the inning to put in Myers. Ruffner followed with a shot to Lewis at shortstop but was picked off at first base. Her grounder put in Condon, bringing the score to 5-3.
After a scoreless inning, the Cougars tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh to tie the game. Cunningham was the saving grace to force the Patriots into the bottom of the inning, singling on her first pitch to Sophie Crowder in center field.
Karli Snyder hit all of the right spots for her defense to step up, picking up a 1-2-3 and forcing an extra inning. Cenate responded with a dominate pitching performance of her own, leading her team in their fourth 1-2-3 of the night.
Then came Ruffner’s time to end the game.
Topping the order, with a 2-0 count, Ruffner split the seams to lift the ball over the left field fence and her team to a 1-0 postseason record.
“I thought it might be over but I wasn’t sure,” Ruffner said. “Then it kept going and I heard everybody going ‘Ohhh!,’ and thought ‘Oh, my goodness, I just hit it over,’ so it was a really nice feeling. It was amazing [running into my team huddle]. It was a really great moment.”
“Hannah needed that home run,” Orkoskey said. “It shows how well they can bounce back – she was getting a little flustered, and for her to come back in the time we needed it I’m proud of her. I called that time out in the seventh to calm everyone down when we were ahead by two with two outs [in the seventh]. We fumbled, but unfortunately we have to face adversity in the postseason.
“Now we know what we need to work on tomorrow in practice for Saturday,” she said.
“I think it hurt us that we haven’t played since last Tuesday. Now that we’re back into playing, hopefully we got our groove back and we can show that on Saturday”
A handful of batters contributed to the Patriots win. Condon (2-3), Myers (2-3), Dubyak (2-3), Brown (1-3) and Ruffner (1-4) combined for the team’s eight hits and 12 total bases. Myers and Ruffner accounted for the team’s four RBI with two a piece.
Cunningham (2-4), Lewis (1-4), and O’Bannion (1-3) led the Cougars at the plate accounting for their only four RBI. The Cougars matched Washington with eight hits, but made three errors compared to the Patriots’ one.
Cenate picked up the win with three earned runs and one walk against her. She struck out four.
“Taylor is able to admit when she’s off a little bit, but then she comes in an adjusts [to] get on the same page with Madi and the rest of our fielders,” Orkoskey said.
A big key with Orkoskey’s coaching style is the trust she has for her pitchers. Most would be pulled after giving up hits and runs in the first half of the game, but Orkoskey knows her girls can bounce back.
“The girls know I trust them. It shows with our voices backing them up and it shows in our action – which has really helped them through the years. I’ve been with Taylor for four years and I know the mentality she has. She will never give up and if something isn’t working she’ll fix it,” Orkoskey said. “It really comes to: I’m praying hard and I’m trusting that not only [our pitcher] but the whole team will pull it off behind her.”
Snyder took the loss for the Cougars, matching Cenate in earned runs and walks but had no strikeouts.
“Props to Karli, she pitched a great game and kept us on our toes,” Orkoskey said.
Jefferson (1-1) will return to their home field Friday night to take on Hampshire (0-1) once more in a final elimination game. Whoever wins will take on Washington Saturday at 2 p.m. in Charles Town.
After their dominate regular season performance and a new, clean slate Orkoskey appreciates the “new” season and uses it to motivate her girls.
“We go into the beginning of every season as the [regular] season itself is practice for the postseason. This is when it counts,” she said. “Luckily we got the [first] game underneath of us, so I’m confident we’ll be fine for Saturday.”