Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
FRANKFORT — Believe it or not, by Chey Ater’s own admission, the senior entered Thursday’s marquee league contest against Unioto in a bit of a slump.
However, after the performance she turned in against the Shermans, you can kiss that rut goodbye.
Ater ended the night like she started it — with a bang.
After hitting a solo home run in the first inning to ease the minds of her teammates, who had dug an early 4-0 hole, she got another chance to leave her fingerprints on the night’s outcome in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With two outs and fellow senior Emily Jones standing on third base, Ater laced a rocket into left-center field — scoring Jones, lifting the Warriors (17-2, 11-2 SVC) to a dramatic 10-9 win over Unioto, and forcing a tie at the top of the SVC standings between the two rivals.
“I was happy as could be. The whole team was excited … It was just a team effort tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Ater said. “I was really nervous going up. Here recently, I’ve been struggling [at the plate]. I just knew I had to get it in the outfield or in a gap somewhere.”
Jones, who crossed the plate with an ear-to-ear grin before being mobbed by her teammates, knew the game was over as soon as Ater got the chance to hit.
“I can’t even explain it. It was an amazing feeling. Pretty much, just pure joy,” Jones said. “As soon as Chey got up there, I knew she was the person who was going to get it done. I had faith in her.”
Coming into the night’s action, Unioto (17-2, 11-2 SVC) had won 10 straight games, outscoring their opponents by a 133-23 margin. And, after the first inning, the Shermans had a 4-0 edge.
But that didn’t phase Adena. After Ater’s first inning home run, the Warriors simply kept fighting.
“We never, in the dugout, got down. We were always picking each other up, even when one of us was struggling,” Ater said. “We just knew that we had to put everything into this game tonight. That’s what we did.”
Tale of the tape
Heading into the top half of the second inning, Unioto held a 4-2 advantage. The Shermans quickly got two runs back in the inning when senior Avery Miller belted a two-run homer over the left field fence for a 6-2 count.
But that’s when the lightbulb lit up in Adena’s dugout.
The Warriors used a massive dose of small ball to send Unioto’s defense into a frenzy. And once the bunt started to work, Adena coach Brad Jadwin went back to the well all night long.
“We didn’t show them that a lot earlier in the year at Unioto,” Jadwin said. “Once [Unioto] got a comfortable lead that night, I said, ‘You know what, I’m not going to pull everything out of the arsenal tonight. But we’re going to make them field the ball at our place.’ That’s our identity and we stick to it well. If you can’t execute against us, we’re going to win. We made things happen.”
Defensive miscues allowed Adena to cut into Unioto’s lead at 6-5 headed to the fifth inning. But the Shermans, once again, got all three runs back quickly in their next at-bat.
Both Alexis Book — who was intentionally walked four times — and Ava Dettwiller knocked in runs while a squeeze play allowed Morgan Daniels to slide safely into home, producing a 9-5 tally.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jones and Greenlee Bossert each laid down RBI sacrifice bunts, eroding the deficit to 9-7. Then, in the sixth, Adena’s Sophie Cheesebrew made it a 9-8 score with an RBI single into right field.
Just an inning later, Cheesebrew got another chance with runners in scoring position. And while Ater’s walk-off single gave the Warriors the win, it would’ve never been possible without Adena’s nine-hole hitter.
Cheesebrew battled and battled to a full count before mirroring her previous at-bat. A second RBI single into right field scored Bossert and sent the game into extra innings, tied 9-9.
“What an at-bat,” Jadwin said. “She just continually battled. You can’t put any more pressure on the kid than what’s already there. So I just told her, ‘Relax. It’s just an at-bat. Be you. Just be ready to hit.’ She’s a good hitter and she showed it.”
After both teams retired quickly in the eighth, Unioto stranded Book and Hannah Hull on the base paths in the top of the ninth. That gave Ater her chance to embrace the hero role and send Adena home a winner.
Ater led the Warriors at the plate, going 3-for-6 with a home run and two RBIs while Cheesebrew finished 2-for-3 with a walk, a run and two RBIs. Bossert also had a successful night, going 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI.
For the Shermans, Miller was 2-for-3 with a homer, two walks, two runs and three RBIs. Book finished 1-for-1 with two runs, four walks and an RBI while Hannah Hull went 1-for-2 with two RBIs and three walks. Daniels also helped out, going 2-for-5 with a double and a run.
What’s on tap
Both teams are scheduled to be back in action Friday evening. Adena goes to Westfall while Unioto hosts Huntington. A win for either team clinches at least a share of the conference title.
“This was a chess match between two good ball clubs. As far as the win, we don’t try to put one win above another,” Jadwin said. “It’s huge. You talk about a culture changing .. Once you beat a team that’s ranked fifth in Division II, these girls start to believe. And they already do that. But it shows us where we can go. But it’s one game at a time. Each game is a one-game season.”