With a single swing, senior catcher Tvshiina Jacobs snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and sent the Del Norte softball team into a frenzy.
Jacobs came to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third base with the No. 2 Warriors trailing No. 3 McKinleyville 3-2. The Warrior senior sent the first pitch she saw into the outfield for a walk-off base hit that brought Shelby Horner and Payten Healy around to score, completing a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 win in the North Coast Section Divison IV Semifinals.
“It was just straight down the middle, so I took advantage of it and just hit it,” Jacobs said.
Del Norte jumped in front with a run in the third inning, but both teams struggled to score in the early going. McKinleyville led off the sixth inning with a single and a double to tie the game up at 1-1.
In the top of the seventh inning the Panthers put together a two-out rally started by Lexi White drawing a walk before catcher Olivia Alves lifted a long fly ball over the left field fence for a two-run home run and a 3-1 lead.
Although the Warriors were face to face with being upset by their Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League foes, Del Norte managed to keep its cool after falling behind.
Following the home run, the Warriors came together in the infield to regroup.
“We were just trying to get Ally (pitcher Allison Douglas) up and take her mind off of that home run,” Jacobs said. “We just told her it’s alright, and we still have one more inning to go.”
Lorenzi thought that the ability to remain calm in the face of adversity is what set this team apart.
“I was impressed with the mental toughness that we had,” Lorenzi said. “We gave up a home run and the really good thing was that her team came in and told her, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it,’ and they supported her. I think that really helps a pitcher. We just showed the mental toughness that we have been talking about every single day for almost two weeks now.”
Del Norte pitcher Allison Douglas wrapped up the top of the seventh inning by getting the next Panther hitter to fly out to right field.
In the bottom of the inning the Warriors were due to bring their seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters to the plate. After a nice catch by McKinleyville’s left fielder for the first out of the inning, the Del Norte bats started to roll.
Junior Laycee Coopman got the rally started with a double that rolled to the centerfield fence on the first pitch of the at bat.
“She was throwing a lot of first pitch strikes,” Coopman said. “I just kept that in mind and used it. I wanted to take the first pitch that I saw and drive it.”
Shelby Horner followed that up with a single into centerfield. That allowed Coopman to come home, cutting McKinleyville’s lead to 3-2 and bringing the Warriors back to the top of their lineup.
“We talk a lot about how every part of the order has to pull their weight, and today they did a heck of a job,” Lorenzi said. “They did what they were supposed to do and got us back to the top of the order.”
Healy, representing the game winning run, then knocked a hard-hit grounder through the left side of the infield for a third-straight base hit.
That brought up senior Brook Nolan with one out and the winning run on first base. Lorenzi said he was torn between letting one of his better hitters swing away, or have her lay down the bunt to move the runners.
Lorenzi elected to allow Nolan one chance to swing, but the senior knocked the ball foul. On the second pitch of the at bat Nolan successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt for the second out of the inning, but it also put both runners in scoring position for Jacobs.
“We put it in the hands of the senior, and she has done it before,” Lorenzi said of the decision to have Nolan bunt. “This isn’t the first time (Jacobs) has won the game for us with a base hit, she has done it two or three times before. We just told her not to try to hit a ball out of the park, all you have to do it get a hit.”
With the win, Del Norte improves to 22-4 overall this season and will move on to the NCS Division IV Championship game. The Warriors will be on the road for the first time in two years in the playoffs, taking on No. 1 St. Joseph Nortre Dame at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.
Del Norte has already reached its preseason goals of winning an HDN League title, going undefeated in league play, and getting back to the North Coast Section championship game for the second year in a row.
“Our final goal is to win the title,” Lorenzi said. “We are going to go and give it our best shot. I think what happened to us last year left a bad taste in our mouth, so our goal for this year has been to repeat. We are going to be competitive. We are going to go out and play the best that we can and whatever happens will happen.”
Del Norte advanced to the NCS Championship game last season, where they beat St. Mary’s 3-1 on the field, only to have the win vacated by NCS officials, under protest from St. Mary’s, due to impermissible bating practice too close to the start of the game.
“We want to win this,” Coopman said. “We want to get it back this year considering it was taken away from us (last year.) I think it means a lot to all of us.”