By Jake Thompson
JASPER — Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Tri-West’s Taylor Heath changed the entire outcome of Monday’s first round semistate game with one swing of the bat.
Heath brought in all the runs the Bruins would need to advance into tonight’s softball semistate final in Jasper, hitting a grand slam to put her team up 5-2.
Tri-West went on to down South Dearborn 6-4 in six-and-a-half innings of play and advanced into the Final Four of Class 3A.
“It definitely is a huge accomplishment for us this year,” Tri-West coach Stacey Rogers said. “We’re on a roll right now. Offensively, we’re on fire right now and defensively we’re just getting better every single day and add in our pitching and that’s what it takes to be the best of the best.”
South Dearborn jumped on top with a two-run homer by Ellen Barrett off Tri-West pitcher Marita VanDyke in the top of the first.
Tri-West returned to the dugout determined to even the score and came away with much more, thanks in part to South Dearborn pitcher Kooper Vertz.
Kaitlyn Settlemoir singled in the leadoff spot to get on base for the Bruins. Claire Johnson advanced Settlemoir to second on her single one batter later.
Vertz then walked two straight Bruins, bringing in one run and loading the bases.
Heath’s shot over the centerfield fence put Tri-West up 5-2 and the momentum suddenly changed in favor of the Bruins.
“We’ve focused on scoring every inning all year long,” Rogers said. “We’ve also focused on scoring early and that’s what did the job for us today. You could see the other team, their heads dropped.”
The score remained 5-2 until the top of the fourth when the Knights’ Makayla McClurg hit a two-run shot to bring her team within a run.
Tri-West answered with an insurance run in the sixth to take a 6-4 advantage. VanDyke’s single started the inning and a double with two outs from Settlemoir brought in the sixth run.
Tri-West takes on the winner of Lebanon (26-2) and Booneville (17-12) at 7 p.m. tonight in Jasper.
The Bruins fell 9-2 and 9-5 to Lebanon early in May during Sagamore Conference play in a Saturday doubleheader. Rogers said those games were not indicative of how Tri-West (23-4) is currently playing.
“We’re a much better team than when we played (Lebanon) and it was also a cold, rainy day and we did not play that well,” Rogers said. “So, we would like the opportunity to play them again.
“We’re going to see what happens next game and hopefully we can continue the roll.”
Tri-West is riding an 11-game win streak heading into tonight’s contest with its last loss coming to Lebanon.
Update: Tri-West will take on Boonville tonight at 7 p.m. in Jasper. The Pioneers downed Lebanon in the second game of the Jasper semistate.