Natalie Saylor plays hero in come-from-behind win
A month ago, Chambersburg's Natalie Saylor spent most softball games in the dugout, cheering on her teammates during the team's successful season.
But Saylor still had something to prove.
Flash forward to the District 3 Class AAAA quarterfinal Thursday afternoon against a familiar opponent, Cumberland Valley, with the Lady Trojans trailing by two runs in the bottom of the sixth, and Saylor up to bat.
After striking out and grounding out earlier in the game, Saylor popped a beautiful drive to deep left field for a double to bring home the game-tying runs, giving Chambersburg the momentum it needed to take home a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over the Eagles.
The Trojans (20-4) will play Lower Dauphin (22-2) in the district semifinals next Tuesday, and have already qualified for the PIAA tournament.
"I was a little nervous (because of my other at bats), but I knew I needed to hit and I knew my teammates were behind me," Saylor said. "It was a great feeling."
"Whenever Natalie goes to the left side of the field left-handed, that is her power ally," Chambersburg coach Chris Skultety said. "She's been very patient. She wasn't playing much ... but once she got that opportunity in the Big Spring Tournament, she took the chance and ran with it. We can't keep her out of the lineup now. She proved she has what it takes to persevere."
Next, Caeley Etter approached the plate and hit a quick grounder to third. An error on the play brought in the go-ahead run, and then Chambersburg's defense went to work in the top of the seventh.
After allowing Cumberland Valley's Katie Wingert to single, pitcher Sammie Bender and first baseman Laken Myers turned a beautiful double play. Alison Noga hit a soft line drive to Bender, who fired to first to catch Wingert off the bag for the final outs of the game.
"It really just put the cherry on top of the whole situation for me because I sort of had a vision in my head thinking it would be great if someone turned a double play," Bender said.
"We knew going into this game it was going to a battle," Cumberland Valley coach Gregg Williams said. "We had talked all season about how we have to finish. We have been in a couple games where we had a chance to win but we didn't finish and that's what happened today. We had a couple opportunities but we didn't do it."
Bender entered the game in the third inning in relief of Myers, with a 4-0 deficit. But Bender pulled through, shutting out Cumberland Valley in the remaining five innings.
"There was some pressure there; obviously I didn't want to make matters worse, but I knew I had my defense behind me," Bender said. "I was just trying to hold them to where they were at. There's only been a few games where we have been down in the first few innings and unfortunately we haven't been able to come out of those games. But I know we have the confidence, we can come back when we are down 4-0 and win."
Cumberland Valley's starter, Jen Hanshaw, proved to be troublesome for the Trojans, who struck out five times.
"It's good for us to finally win one of these," Skultety said. "We've lost a couple close games, so it sends the message home about the mental toughness, that if you just believe and keep fighting you can do anything and it was nice to see it finally pay off for us."