BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
GENOA — Oak Harbor was well on its way to a third district championship in four seasons, but Wauseon’s bats woke up in the seventh inning and pushed across seven runs in the final frame as Indians defeated the Rockets, 13-9.
Oak Harbor (22-8) trailed 6-3 heading into the bottom of the fifth and took a 9-6 lead after scoring six runs, but the Rockets were unable to close it out as a key error in the seventh preceded a barrage of hits that lifted Wauseon to victory.
The Indians sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning and cut the deficit to 9-8 when Payton Albright lined a pitch off the left-field wall to drive in two runs. After Brianna Hays fouled out to first base, putting Oak Harbor within an out of winning the game, Macee Schang hit a liner to center field to score Albright and tie the game at 9-9. After Jettie Burget was intentionally walked, Chelsie Raabe hit a single to left field to drive in a run, giving Wauseon the lead for good.
“It was kind of like a basketball game,” Oak Harbor coach Chris Rawski. “It was a game of runs, and they made the last one.”
The Rockets finished a mile away from where they started. After 11 games, Oak Harbor, who was 6-5, got hot and went 16-2 to advance to the district final. There were a number of changes made along the way, and they proved to be just what the team needed.
“We finished fourth in the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division and rattled off 16 out of 18 victories,” said Rawski. “It shows tremendous resolve by these kids to make a tournament run like they did. We’ve been down, but they find a way to get back in the game. It’s a group that has expended so much energy to get to this point, and you can’t do anything but appreciate it.”
The Indians scored two runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead and led 5-1 before the Rockets responded with two runs in the bottom of the second. Wauseon scored another run in the fourth inning before Oak Harbor rallied in the fifth.
That rally began when Ellie Hanselman drilled a home run to left field and two Indian errors put the Rockets within striking distance. Emily Sommers hit a two-run double to tie the score at 6-6, and a base hit by Lauren St. Clair gave Oak Harbor a one-run lead. After Emma Martin walked, Alyse Sorg drove in a run with a base hit and a wild pitch resulted in another run scoring and the Rockets taking a 9-6 lead.
Hanselman finished her career by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two runs, Kori Helle reached base three times and drove in a run and Sorg had two hits and drove in a run.
It was the final game for Hanselman, St. Clair and Martin, all of whom left an imprint on the program.
This is the fifth time in the last six years that the Rockets have advanced at least as far as the district finals. The program has consistently shown itself to be one of the best in northwest Ohio.
“It speaks to the players, families, the community and the coaching staff to put in what it takes to get to this point,” said Rawski. “The kids come in and they’re tough because of the kids that came before them.”