Comets come from behind in thrilling fashion to capture share of GMC title
Eric Michael | Staff Writer
Eric Miller | Staff Writer
The Mason Softball team entered last Thursday with a chance to win sole possession of the Greater Miami Conference title with a win over rival Lakota East. They came up short, taking a 6-0 loss and in the process had a hole punched in their undefeated season. The Comets only had 24 hours to regroup before their senior day contest against Oak Hills, needing a win to secure a share of their third straight GMC title.
Andrea Gahan got Oak Hills on the board first with a solo home run in the third inning. Senior Olivia Hopkins answered with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the fourth. The Highlanders tacked on two runs with a bloop single in the fifth and a sac fly in the sixth. Trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the sixth, sophomore Elana Harrison produced and RBI single and Hopkins knocked in a run off of a groundout to first base. Neither team scored in the seventh, sending the game to extras. In the top of the eighth Oak Hills’ Taylor Wilp hit a three run homer that careened off the glove of Zoe Bishop and just barely cleared the fence, taking the wind out of the Comets’ sails. With their backs to the wall, needing the three runs to stay alive, the Comets staged an unbelievable four run comeback.
Hopkins started the rally with a double and scored off of a Brooke Rice single. Starting pitcher Elle Buffenbarger singled and Ali Weekly walked to load the bases. Sophomore Jill Aquilia brought a run home with a base hit to make the score 6-5. Senior Erin Rockstroh hit into a fielder’s choice that scored the game tying run. With the bases loaded, two outs and the GMC title on the line, sophomore Olivia Popovich sent Comet fans into pandemonium when she slapped a base hit down the left field line to score the winning run and clinch the Comets a share of the GMC for the third straight year.
Barring an unforeseen upset, Mason could face off against Lakota East for a third matchup of the season in the Regional Final. After splitting the series in the regular season, Buffenbarger said that facing East for a third time would be intense.
“It would definitely be very exciting and very intense,” Buffenbarger said. “They want it, we want it, and they’re always one of our biggest rivals in the GMC. To play them three times, and we split with them, would definitely be really exciting. If we do end up playing them again, hopefully we can beat them this time.”
Rockstroh said that losing that game to Lakota East taught her team not to take every game for granted, and may have played as a blessing in disguise.
“Obviously we all would have wanted to win that game,” Rockstroh said. “But in a way, it gives us a good mentality going into the postseason. It also takes off the pressure of being undefeated. That put the stakes so much higher. But now we can just do our thing, we can win. We don’t have to worry about what people are saying about us.”
Rockstroh said that the loss gave them a mentality which had not been present when they had been unbeaten prior to last Thursday’s game.
“That game definitely sparked a fire inside of us,” Rockstroh said. “It carried us into the game against Oak Hills. It kind of made us not take for granted all of the games we’d won and gave us more motivation than we had before to keep on winning.”
Despite her team’s consistent success, head coach Liann Muff says that her team’s best play has yet to be seen, and she has high expectations for the tournament.
“There’s no reason why we can’t continue to find success in playing our method of softball,” Muff said. “We managed to get 20 wins this year, and I contend that we have not played our best softball yet. The best is yet to come. These girls are working hard, they have an end goal, and that’s to win a state championship.”