ZACHARY — Nearly 2½ hours after beginning in supporting roles Zachary’s Alyssa Wittig and Malloree Milton finished an epic drama as full-fledged stars.
Wittig and Milton were part of a two-out, three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning that lifted Zachary to a pulsating 9-8 District 4-5A victory over Live Oak on Thursday at Zachary’s Youth Park.
“Your desire and determination to win has to be greater than your fear to lose,” Zachary coach Leslie Efferson-Yellot said after her team trailed 8-6 going into the sixth. “That’s where we were and you can’t win a game like that. I just told them to fight.”
Live Oak (14-4) showed resolve, playing without starting pitcher/clean-up hitter Savannah Hall, who was a game-time scratch with an illness.
The Eagles trailed 6-1 after four innings before rallying with three runs in the fifth and taking their first lead with four more in the sixth.
“At that point we had to discuss the character of the team,” Live Oak coach Michelle Morris said. “We asked them if they wanted to just give in. They’re a pretty good group. They came back.”
Third baseman Gisselle Ash (2-for-3, three RBIs) was at the heart of Live Oak’s comeback with a two-run homer in the fifth and first baseman Ally Howard foiled Zachary’s strategy to intentionally walk Ash with a game-tying, two-run double in the sixth.
Kelsey Miller (2-4) provided Live Oak with its first lead on a bad hop, two-run single that caromed over shortstop Macie Pampell and into left field.
Zachary (14-3, 3-1), which moved into a tie for the district lead with Live Oak, staged its comeback after two were out in the sixth.
Emergency starter Lindsey Rizzo, who allowed 12 hits, enjoyed her best stretch with seven consecutive outs until Carsyn Martel beat out an infield single and Pampell singled to left.
Wittig, who initially served as a courtesy runner, officially entered in the fourth in place of Tegan Scott in right field.
After striking out in her first at-bat Wittig lined a 0-1 pitch from Rizzo into the left-center gap for a double that tied the game at 8.
“I’m in disbelief,” Wittig said. “I don’t ever hit for power. I don’t know where it came from. It felt so good coming off the bat.”
Just before Wittig’s game-tying hit, Efferson-Yellot called timeout to consider re-entering Scott once Rizzo got ahead in the count but decided to stick with her freshman.
Milton moved from a defensive-only position and into Zachary’s batting order in the third inning, collecting a pair of hits and three RBIs with her go-ahead single up the middle that scored Wittig from third.
Winning pitcher Baylie Doiron, who yielded 13 hits, walked two and struck out four, responded after a rough fifth and sixth by retiring Live Oak in order in the seventh.
“They had the upper hand,” Morris said. “We’ll try to get them at our place.”