HARRISBURG — You couldn’t have written a better ending for the Harrisburg Bulldogs 8-7 victory over the Eldorado Eagles on Friday. It came down to the wire, Harrisburg trailed 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh inning when Lydia Miller doubled on a 2-2 count, scoring the tying and game-winning runs to crown Harrisburg as champions of the Class 2A Harrisburg Softball Regional.
"Lydia was up to bat 0-for-3 on the day with a couple strikeouts and got down early in the count, but she just kept battling and fighting off tough pitches until she got one that she could handle that she hit into the gap of left-center field and our kids did a nice job of running the bases,” said Harrisburg coach Red Stafford.
Harrisburg trailed 7-4 heading into the final inning when senior Madeline Rider led off the seventh with a home run to center field. The senior wasn’t ready for her season to end as her power rubbed off on junior Essence Sanders, when two batters later she launched a homer to make it a one run ballgame and breathe life into the Bulldogs dugout.
An intentional walk to Karsyn Davis and a Kerrigan Payne single set the table for Miller, and she made sure to make a memory out of this one.
“I was really nervous because I hadn’t hit the ball well today,” said Miller. “I knew that I had all of my teammates backing me up and they all knew I could do it. That really helped me believe that I could do it.”
Miller fouled off the first pitch of her at bat and then drew back-to-back balls to make it a 2-1 count. Miller then fouled off the fourth pitch she saw and made a quick adjustment on a changeup to foul it off, before delivering the biggest hit of the game.
“I was ecstatic once I saw the ball get down,” said Miller. “What this comeback says about our team is that we don’t give up. We will keep fighting until final inning.”
Harrisburg controlled all momentum, holding a 4-1 lead after five innings until Eldorado erupted for six runs at the top of the sixth.
The sixth inning seemed like an eternity for the Bulldogs defense. Ten batters came up to the plate for Eldorado, and it seemed like all the momentum was sucked out of the Harrisburg dugout. Cathlene Green started off the inning with a home run, and then three Bulldog errors put Eldorado ahead and Harrisburg in a position they haven’t played in all season.
“We hadn’t been in this situation all year, most of the time we’re either way up or we’re down.” said Stafford. “You’ve got to give these kids credit and I go back to Coach (Jake) Stewart with his basketball program. These kids have all played in big basketball games, so they know what it’s like to be in a big game.
“I just can’t say enough about this team. A lot of people would have given up, but Madeline got us started with a home run, Essence had a couple of big hits on the day, and then Lydia came through big time for us.”
Payne earned the win for Harrisburg. She went seven innings, allowing seven runs on ten hits, striking out six and walking zero.
Emma Wargel took the loss for Eldorado. She surrendered eight runs on eight hits over six and a third innings, striking out seven.
Harrisburg advances to the Du Quoin Sectional and will take on the winner of the Trico Regional on Wednesday, May 22.