Smeltzer double lifts Woodward-Granger into regionals second round

Sean Cordy - Sports
Katelyn Bandstra runs in for the winning run against South Hardin on July 8. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/THE PERRY CHIEF

It could have been her last swing as a Hawk. Instead, outfielder Alissa Smeltzer hit a double off the fence to drive in the final run to take down South Hardin (3-20) in walk-off fashion 4-3 for Woodward-Granger (7-30) in extra innings.

“Not gonna lie, I was a little nervous,” the senior outfielder said. “I was like, ‘This could be my last inning ever.’ But I just went out there to do what I know I can do and two of my really good friends (Katelyn Bandstra and Natalie Weaver) were on base and thought it would be cool I could get them in.”

W-G head coach Jessica Wyant said she had full faith in Smeltzer to get keep the season alive. But she added that it wasn’t an easy path to get to that endpoint.

Down 1-0 after the first inning, the Hawks were blanked their first time to bat but turned a corner in the second after getting the bases loaded of a Chloe Houge bunt.

That bunt would turn into a recurring theme throughout the game and helped set up the first two runs and more later for the Hawks.

“We’re definitely playing against out opponents. We noticed early on that bunting wasn’t their strong suit and so we kind of just kept going at their weakness and it worked and sometimes it didn’t,” Wyant said.

With the 2-1 lead for the Hawks, South Hardin got its own runners in scoring position in the fifth inning to test Woodward’s defense, taking advantage of the W-G infield to get the tying run from Jaiden Roy.

Two innings remaining to put the game away, Woodward ramped up its base running attack to fight back. Having already advanced on the bases a number of times on the evening, Katelyn Bandstra didn’t slow up as she snuck past the pitcher to second base only to be left on base in the sixth inning.

A similar refrain played in the seventh. Natalie Weaver worked her way to third for a potential game-winning run coming in hot at third base. Audrey Simmons repeated Bandstra’s play to get to second but was left stranded, taking the game to extras.

Woodward was left with a crucial fielding choice in the eighth, granting South Hardin the tie-breaking run off a powerhouse double from Faith Owens. W-G swiftly retired the side after that, leading to that fateful plate appearance for Smeltzer.

Just as in the second inning, the Hawks got the bases loaded off a bunt, this time from Natalie Weaver to set up a sac fly from Emma Anderson for the tying run. Then came the final blow from Smeltzer to keep the team’s season alive for at least one more game.

“They didn’t give up. They just kind of kept pushing and kept grinding,” Wyant said.

W-G has a long haul to Jesup (28-9) in the second regional round on Wednesday.