OAK HARBOR – It’s safe to say that freshman Seree Petersen won’t be in the doghouse of Oak Harbor coach Chris Rawski.
There were, however, a few moments of uncertainty Friday. Petersen singled down the right field line and overran a stop sign at first to stretch it into a double with two outs in the 11th inning before scoring on a double from Maddy Rathbun in the Rockets’ 2-1 victory over Willard in a Division III sectional final.
The throw home beat Petersen, who danced around the catcher but assumed she was out. Petersen heard the crowd roar as she started to head toward the dugout and scampered back to touch home plate.
“I thought Coach Kelly (Traver) was pointing to second base,” Petersen said. “I had to get to second and got under it and I didn’t get in trouble. I knew Maddy would hit. Coach told me to go home and I couldn’t slide.
“I had to go around. I thought I touched home. Everybody was screaming. I made it back to the plate.”
Oak Harbor plays Upper Sandusky at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Clyde in a district semifinal.
Rathbun waited one at-bat to take Rawski’s advice.
“Coach told me to load up and drive it hard,” she said. “Hit the gap – there’s a lot of space for you. It’s almost ironic, the at-bat before he told me to hit a double to left-center and I tried. The next one, I relaxed and it went where I wanted it to go.”
Willard scored the first run of the game with two outs in the top of the 11th. Oak Harbor’s Ashley Riley reached on a fielder’s choice with one out in the 12th, went to third on a double from Olivia Rollins and scored on a walk-off suicide squeeze from Tessa Tyburski.
“When we huddled together Coach said if I got a strike we’d squeeze,” Tyburski said. “As we kept talking he wanted to play to win. We had a good feeling it was our time. I was nervous, but excited.
“When I got it down, I ran as hard as I could and when I heard the crowd I knew she was in. I started jumping around like a maniac I was so excited. With the game so close, I knew it was my job to get it down.”
The Rockets were denied a run in the fourth as Emma Bergman scored on a sacrifice fly from Riley, but was ruled to have left third early. A Willard runner tried to score in the second inning as Oak Harbor’s outfielder struggled to pick up the ball, but shortstop Chrislyn Stevenson relayed to home for the out.
“I knew it was going to be close with Chrislyn getting it in as fast as she could,” Rathbun said. “I was able to gather the ball in the dirt first and then put the tag on.”
Riley relieved Bergman in the circle with a runner on first and no outs in the seventh. She promptly wild-pitched a runner to second before notching two strikeouts and Rathbun pounced out from behind the plate to record an out.
She recorded two outs with a runner in scoring position in the eighth before retiring the next six batters. She induced a groundout with a runner on second in the top of the 12th.
“She’s just tremendous,” Rathbun said. “To come into a sectional final with the game on the line and her first time in this kind of pressure … even half of what she did. She threw strikes. When she got behind she didn’t give up on any batter or out.
“It’s so cool to see how far she’s come since scrimmages with confidence and freshman mistakes. She trusted herself and her defense.”
Oak Harbor’s infield was great with the gloves Friday. Third baseman Emma Vidal made several long throws to record outs while second baseman Rollins made a handful of grounders with pace look easy. Stevenson caught a little looper with her back to the plate.
“They have confidence in me and I have more confidence in them,” Riley said. “I know if there’s a ball hit to them, they’re going to have it. I was so nervous out there. I just had to calm myself down every pitch.”
Riley struck out seven in six innings. Bergman struck out four without a walk the first six innings and did well to regroup after the ruling at third.
“We did all the little things, including not giving in when it was 1-0 with two outs with our freshman No. 9 hitter up,” Rawski said. “Nobody gave up on any pitch at any point.”