MONTICELLO | For five innings Ashley Yoways was unhittable. The junior pitcher for Hanover Central had a no-hitter and a 3-0 lead in the semifinal of the Class 3A Twin Lakes Semistate.
Then, something happened that changed the game.
“The field umpire called me for not dragging,” Yoways said of her back leg when delivering each pitch. “So I had to slow everything down. It makes me a lot slower.”
Yoways had to change her delivery in the middle of the contest.
Fairfield won the game 4-3 in eight innings, but it was the three runs in the sixth that swung the momentum to the Falcons (22-8), who played Yorktown In Saturday night's semistate championship.
Yorktown beat South Bend St. Joseph's 12-1 in the first rain-delayed semifinal in Monticello.
Kaela Miller singled in the sixth. One out later, she moved to third on Alex DeWitt's double. Riley Troyer's singled scored both runs and she scored on a dropped fly ball in left with two outs.
Hanover committed two errors in the bottom of the eighth and a wild pitch moved both runners to second and third. Troyer's suicide squeeze ended the season for Hanover (18-10).
“They scored one more than we did,” Hanover coach Larry McMillen said. “The kids feel bad enough so I'm not going to talk about the things we should've done better.
“We had a great year. This is a good group of girls. No, they're a great group of girls.”
The Wildcats scored all three runs in the third. After two errors put two runners aboard, Melissa Balkema launched a three-run homer over the left-field fence.
That great joy danced slowly with deep pain after the game's end for the sophomore third baseman.
“I felt it coming; I kept fouling pitches off,” she said. “It just went. It was great because I really hadn't been hitting.”
Hanover popped out 15 times in the game. Over-swinging at the slower pitches by Fairfield's Danica Mast caused these easier outs.
“We had a hard time adjusting,” Balkema said while trying to hold back the tears. “We were struggling with her slower pitches.”
In the seventh, for the third time in the game, the Wildcats got their leadoff hitter on base. But like the other three times, they couldn't get the big hit to break open the game.
“We were two tipped balls away from getting out of (the sixth) inning,” McMillen said of the errors that grazed off his players' gloves. “We kept flying out. We needed to get the ball down. Home runs are rally killers. You know what you're going to get when everyone's trying to hit a home run.
“We were trying to do too much instead of making good contact.”
Still, despite letting a very winnable game slip away, McMillen was proud of the way his team shocked everyone by winning a tough sectional and advancing to a semistate.
“It was a darn good ball game,” he said. “We had one bad inning. Our girls learned how to play as a team.”