Freshman Tedi Nunn had the go-ahead hit and scored an insurance run in the top of the eighth inning while senior Olivia Leet held Assumption to five hits in the Eagles’ 3-1 win in the regional semifinal Wednesday night at the University of Louisville’s Ulmer Stadium.
Eastern (21-17) will play No. 7 Male, a 3-2 winner over No. 6 Ballard, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night in thechampionship game. It’s the Eagles’ first regional title game appearance since losing 9-1 to Male in 2013.
“I’m proud of the effort. They stuck with it and didn’t let anything bother them,” Eastern coach Dean Taylor said. “We kept hitting the ball and I told them, ‘We’re going to get some hits with some runners on here in a minute, so just stick with it.’”
In the second meeting of the season between the two programs – the Rockets beat the Eagles 6-2on March 16 in Middletown – Eastern struck first.
With two outs in the top of the third inning, Eastern strung together three straight singles, with freshman cleanup hitter Molly Probus driving in sophomore Alana Fullen with the third hit.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh when freshman Lillie Bennett laced a single that sailed just out of reach of Fullen at second base and drove in freshman Braxton Downs. .
Probus then dropped a one-out bloop double into left field and two batters later, Nunn’s RBI single to right-center field scored freshman Mackenzie Schutte, who was running for Probus.
“She pitched me outside, so I was looking to drive an outside pitch since we had somebody on second, and I just went with the pitch and it went to right-center,” Nunn said.
Nunn then stole second before scoring on senior Ashley Kelley’s RBI single to left field.
“The freshmen were huge,” Taylor said. “They grew up a little bit right there.”
That was enough for Leet. She retired the side on three straight fly balls in the bottom of the eighth.
“I will admit, the seventh inning, I get it in my mind, ‘I can’t let them get anything.’ I stress a lot,” she said. “Once it got back to the eighth inning, I just told myself, ‘You were doing fine the whole game, just don’t force it.’ So it went a lot better.”
Leet finished with six strikeouts.
“Olivia Leet pitched a really, really good game, (she) kept them off-balance,” Taylor said.
Downs led the freshman-laden Rockets (15-18) with three hits while Bennett tallied two.
“We made some solid contact toward the end of the game,” Assumption coach Lisa Pinkston said. “I guess my frustration was just that it took us too many innings to get going. (Leet) was throwing a nice curveball on the outside and we just couldn’t make an adjustment fast enough. So you have to tip your hat to her.”