THE PLAINS, Ohio — Better late than never.
The Gallia Academy softball team rallied back from a 2-0 deficit by scoring twice in the seventh and eighth frames Saturday afternoon to claim a 4-2 victory over host Athens in a Division II sectional final in Athens County.
The fifth-seeded Blue Angels (18-7) knocked off the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division champion Lady Bulldogs (14-8) in dramatic fashion, as the guests received some big plays from their senior leaders.
Senior Heather Ward led off the seventh with a hit to left, and an errant throw back into the infield allowed Ward to get to third on the play. Classmate Mattie Lanham followed with an RBI single, allowing GAHS to pull within one.
With one out in the inning, Lanham stole second and then later scored when senior Rachel Morris slapped a single into right field for a 2-all tie. The Gallia Academy defense got out of its half of the seventh unscathed, forcing extra frames. Ward and Lanham added RBI singles in the eighth for a 4-2 lead and - ultimately - the win.
Gallia Academy now advances to its third consecutive district tournament on 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Northwest High School, where the Blue Angels will face top-seeded Greenfield McClain in the first of two semifinals that evening. McClain (19-3) held off Washington Court House by a 2-1 count Saturday in a sectional final.
The fourth-seeded Lady Bulldogs received RBI singles from Haley Bissell in the third and fifth innings while building their 2-0 cushion, and Abby Pomento held GAHS to just two hits through six innings of play. The Blue Angels, following their two-inning rally, outhit the hosts by a 9-7 overall margin. Both teams also had two errors apiece in the game.
Ward was the winning pitcher of record after allowing two runs, seven hits and two walks over eight innings while striking out five. Pomento took the tough-luck loss despite striking out seven of the first nine batters she faced.
Athens Messenger sports editor Kevin Wiseman contributed to this report.