After rain forced the OCAA Championship back a day, St. Clair and Humber finally faced off Sunday afternoon in what would be a game for the ages. The Saints went with staff ace Alexa Georgiou, who had been lights out all weekend, while Humber countered with Jessie Ulens, who beat these same Saints just a day earlier. Facing each other for the third time in three days, the teams had clearly developed a familiarity for each other that only added to the games intensity.
Both offences started slowly, with the Saints retired in short order in the top of the first. Humber would manage a single from Shawna Niskanen in the bottom of the inning, but slick fielding from the mound by Georgiou closed the first with zeroes on the board. It looked as though the extra day of rest may pay dividends for both starters, but the bats would awaken soon enough.
After Hillary Redrup made a nice play at first to get the first out of the top of the second, the St. Clair batters began to deliver. Callie Desjarlais beat out an infied single, and Rian Desbiens stepped up and blooped another one bagger to shallow left. The Saints would bunt the runners over, putting two runners in scoring position with two outs. Allie Telfer seized the opportunity, knocking in the first run of the game on a shot up the middle. Sarah Bondy followed that up with a chopper to short that Jacqueline O'Quinn raced over to field, but her rushed throw to second was high which allowed another St. Clair run to cross the plate. A shot to centre field by Amelia Maniuk would plate a hustling Allie Telfer, and the Saints were on their way with an early 3-0 advantage.
Humber went down quietly in the bottom of the inning, and Georgiou was clearly in a groove. Skyler Patteson led off the third with a single, and a bunt had her in scoring position quickly. Callie Desjarlais then slapped another base knock to right to put runners on the corners, and the Saints offence was humming again. Humber starter Jessie Ulens was having some location issues, but delivered a perfect 12-6 curveball that Rian Desbiens chopped right to second basemen Jamie Vieira. Vieira alertly tagged the runner, but her throw to first was a half-second late, letting the fourth St. Clair run to cross the plate. Humber manager Bob Acton would pull Ulens after just two and two-thirds, bringing in ace Jessica O'Quinn from the outfield. She promptly induced a groundout to end the inning, but the score sat at 4-0 with the green and white clearly in the driver's seat
The Hawks bats finally showed some signs of life in the bottom of the third thanks to consecutive one out singles from Jacqueline O'Quinn and Kelsey Bardy. Aggressive base running would have runners on second and third with only one out, and it looked like Humber might get right back in the game. With the infield in, Shawna Niskanen shot a rocket to the left side. St. Clair's third baseman made a great snag, and with O'Quinn a little too far off the bag , touched third for a back-breaking double play. The Hawks returned to the dugout dejected, the dream of a repeat looking perilously close to slipping away.
The fourth inning was quick for both sides, with O'Quinn and Georgiou controlling the opposing offences masterfully. The top of the fifth would result in yet another Saints run, when a Lisa Ternosky single brought in Callie Desjarlais from third to make the score 5-0. The Hawks went down quickly in the bottom of the inning, and it appeared the normally potent Hawks bats had gone cold at the worst possible time.
After a quick top of the sixth, Humber came to bat down to their final six outs. Kelsey Bardy led off with a single, and Shawna Niskanen did the same to put runners on first and third with none out. An Olivia Crossley sac fly gave the Hawks their first run of the afternoon, but things were still looking dire. Refusing to go down without a fight, Jessica O'Quinn notched the Hawks third single of the inning to put two ducks on the pond. The hit brought a mound visit for St. Clair, and looking into the Humber dugout you could tell the team still believed. Natalie Stoberman stepped up and ripped a huge double that plated the second Hawks run and left her and O'Quinn in scoring position. Hillary Redrup came up as the potential tying run, and she pounced on an 0-1 delivery hitting a rope to the outfield. The Hawks third consecutive knock scored two and made it just a one run game. Looking at Alexa Georgiou's delivery, you had to wonder if fatigue was finally getting to her.
Sydney Bartha was smartly inserted as a pinch-runner for Redrup, and she immediately swiped second base. Jamie Vieira came to the plate with the sizeable Humber contingent going crazy, and chopped a slow roller to the left side. Thanks to some great hustle down the line she was able to just beat the throw, and Keira Lansley followed that up with perhaps the biggest hit of the game. With the tying run at second, a drive to centre field scored a sprinting Bartha and capped the stunning rally. The final two out's of the inning were mercifully recorded on a strikeout and groundout, but it was a whole new ballgame at 5-5.
With the wind out of their sails, the Saints went down in order in the top of the seventh. After two quick outs in the bottom of the inning, back-to-back walks brought Hillary Redrup up again with a chance to be the hero. Georgiou dealt a masterful series of pitches though, and finished Redrup off on a high heater. The game was headed to extra's and quickly becoming one of the best in OCAA history.
As per OCAA rules, in extra innings a runner is placed at second base automatically. In another huge play, Allie Telfer stepped up to bat and ground a slow roller to the pitcher to start the eighth. Jessica O'Quinn fielded the ball cleanly, and smartly took a look at the runner on second first. To everyone's surprise, she broke for third on the play and O'Quinn's throw was on the money for a huge first out. Sarah Bondy was hit by a pitch next, and Amelia Maniuk came up with a chance to re-take the lead. Unfortunately for the Saints, just as she had all afternoon, O'Quinn buckled in when it mattered most and slammed the door. She first struck Maniuk out on a nasty slider, and then induced a line-out from star Alexa Georgiou. The Hawks would come to the plate with a chance to cap the epic rally in the bottom of the inning.
With Jessica Crudo placed at second, Humber smartly used their first batter to bunt her over. With the winning run only 60 feet away, the Saints set up the double play by walking catcher Keira Lansley. Jacqueline O'Quinn stepped up to the plate, and after seeing a couple pitches connected on a high heater. The ball drifted toward the edge of the infield, and the wind seemed to carry the ball further and further right. After what seemed like forever, the ball fell out of the blue sky to the ground just out of the reach of the Saints second basemen. Jessica Crudo sprinted home from third, and the celebration was in full swing.
The Championship gives Humber their second in as many years, and this was truly a game for the ages. The tenacity and will to come back from what looked like an insurmountable lead, to string together such an unlikely rally,is no surprise to those who have been around this team all year. It's what these Hawks hang their hat on, and they now have another banner to show for it.
Player of the Game Award
Alexa Georgiou – St. Clair
Keira Lansley – Humber
All Star Team
Kayla Gammie – Durham
Lauren Ruf – Conestoga
Skylar-Dawn Patteson – St. Clair
Alexa Georgiou – St. Clair
Keira Lansley – Humber
Jessica O'Quinn – Humber