PICKERINGTON — Kristen Adkins stepped up when her team needed her most, doing a bit of everything while leading eighth-seeded Liberty to a 2-1 upset win over second-seeded Hayes in a Division I Central District championship game Friday afternoon in Pickerington.
Adkins, who scored both Patriot (19-7) runs and picked up the win in the circle, plated what turned out to be the game-winning tally thanks to some heads-up baserunning in the top of the seventh inning.
Senior shortstop Madison Kadlic set the table, leading off the inning with a sharp single up the middle. Adkins, who homered two innings prior to even things up, then walked on four straight pitches and sophomore third baseman Tiffany Hart singled to load the bases.
That’s when things got interesting. Sophomore first baseman Kaylin Lee shot a bouncer to Hayes senior second baseman Lindsey Blair, who came home with the throw to force Kadlic at the plate. Pacer (23-2) senior catcher Kaitlyn Woerner then fired to first to try for a double play, but the throw trickled away, allowing Adkins to break from third and slip in safely.
“Kristen is a great baserunner,” Liberty coach Bob Lee said. “When I saw they were going to go for the double play, I knew she had a chance to score. We teach them to take a big turn and she never broke stride. I give all the credit to her … she’s not the fastest baserunner, but she is smart.”
Hayes pitcher Madi Huck worked out of the jam without further damage, but Adkins, who allowed just three hits while striking out eight, handled the rest. She coaxed junior outfielder Kaitlynn Schuette into a grounder back to the mound for the first out of the seventh, then struck out senior Chandler Fields and junior Avery Bauman to seal the deal.
The district title was the Patriots’ first in program history.
“The title is really exciting for the school,” coach Lee said. “We have won the league for the last three years, which is always our No. 1 goal. Winning districts is just the icing on the cake.”
The loss, meanwhile, was just the Pacer’s second of the season and their third district championship defeat in the last four seasons. Prior to the district championship game, Hayes had won every game it played within the state of Ohio. The team’s only other loss came during spring break in Florida.
Early on, it looked like the Pacers might just break their title drought as senior shortstop Mikayla Cooper muscled a changeup over the center field fence to put her team up 1-0 with two outs in the fourth.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Adkins led off the fifth with a towering solo shot of her own.
Hayes had another shot at the lead in the bottom half of the frame, as Woerner started things with an infield singled and moved to second on a sac bunt, but Adkins forced a harmless infield pop up before notching a strike out to keep the game tied.
The Pacers’ put themselves in position to do some damage in the sixth, too, but came up empty. Cooper worked a two-out walk, Huck singled through the left side of the infield and both runners moved up on a double steal, but Woerner lined out to Kadlic to end the threat.
With the win, Liberty will play the winner of today’s battle between Teays Valley and Grove City in Wednesday’s regional semifinal at The Ohio State University.