Brookfield tops GV on walk-off HR
BROOKFIELD — Ella Simcox hit a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift No. 4-seeded Brookfield past the No. 5 Grand Valley Mustangs, 5-4, Friday in a Division III softball sectional bracket final.
The Warriors will now face top-seeded Champion in a district semifinal for the second year in a row. That game will be played Thursday at LaBrae.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Brookfield’s season hinged on one final out. Bailey Drapola was purposely walked on four pitches, bringing up Simcox. Simcox sent the second pitch of the at-bat over the center field fence, to complete the dramatic finish and keep the Warriors alive for at least one more game.
“I thought with the top of my order coming up, I was in a good spot,” Brookfield coach Ken Forsythe said of the seventh inning. “Ella had two or three hits going into that at-bat, and I’m always looking for a single, because I figure we gotta get Bailey at least a score from it. But, Ella came through in the big clutch today and I can’t reach out to my seniors and her more enough, because they turned this program around.”
In the early going, neither team could generate much offense, other than a Kenzie Drapola home run in the first inning. The score was still 1-0 through the middle of the fifth inning.
Kenzie Drapola sent a single to right field to lead off the bottom of the fifth, and hustled into second base when the cutoff throw took too much time. Bailey Drapola followed suit with a line drive to left field, bringing in her sister. Bailey Drapola advanced to third when the Mustangs attempted to get the out at home.
Brookfield (11-5) quickly added another run to extend the lead to 3-0, when Simcox’s blooper into shallow center field brought in Bailey Drapola. GV managed to escape from the inning when Taeyana Ashley was called out on a pitch that appeared to have been fouled off of Ashley before going into the field of play.
Grand Valley (16-6), which was aggressive at the plate throughout the game, could not manage much success against Brookfield pitcher Gabby Schiska until the Mustangs finally found their stride in the sixth.
Cassandra Gallo led off the inning with a single to left field, which was followed by an Abby Triskett single up the middle. A Schiska wild pitch moved the runners over to second and third, before an error at second base brought in Gallo and Triskett to cut the deficit to 3-2.
An Abby Takacs blooper to right field moved Dani Shreve to third, as Takacs managed to beat the throw into second base. Emily Byler’s sacrifice fly scored a tagging Shreve, who narrowly beat the throw to home. However, the Warriors sent an errant throw to third to try and get out Takacs, who managed to score and put the Mustangs ahead, 4-3.
However, after two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh, GV coach Terry Hejduk decided he didn’t want to take any chances pitching to Bailey Drapola, as he was heard yelling to Triskett, ‘Just walk her, Abby. She’s hitting like .900 for the season!”
The gamble, however, did not pay off, as the Mustangs’ season ends in disappointment.
“I’ve been coaching 26 years and I know better than what I just did there,” Hejduk said. “It is what it is, sometimes you roll the dice and it works, sometimes you roll the dice and you don’t. What do you do? Who expects a girl to come up and jack one 300 feet, you know?”
As for the Warriors, they live to fight another day. A year ago in the district semifinal round, the No. 7 Warriors had a first inning meltdown against Champion, allowing five runs and giving up three sacrifice bunt singles in a row.
For the Warriors to have any chance against Champion next week, Forsythe knows his team will have to avoid bad innings, just like last year against Champion and the sixth inning Friday versus GV.
“We play one bad inning and I keep harping to them, to beat Champion, we’ve got to play a perfect game,” Forsythe said. “They’re the best team in the state and they’re No. 1 in the state, they’ve got the best coach in the state.
“They’re there for a reason, and if you want to beat the best, you’ve got to play with them and you’ve got to be able to adjust to them. That’s what we’ve got to do on Thursday.”