ELKHART — An emotional Gabby Desimone put her head in her hands after the biggest hit of her softball career put the Jimtown Jimmies in position to tie or win the 3A NorthWood Sectional on Friday night.
Moments later, Desimone was diving across home plate with the game-winning run, to give Jimtown its first sectional title since the 2011 season by beating Knox, 4-3.
The Jimmies will now host Hanover Central on Tuesday in 3A regional play. Hanover Central advanced with a 5-4 win over Highland.
A double by Desimone put runners on second and third with two outs in the seventh inning, with Morgan Weesner coming to the plate. Weesner hit a ground ball to third, but the throw from Trishta Brewer was a little wide and went off the glove of first basemen Jayla Williams.
Isabel Ortega, who had reached on a two-out error scored from third and Desimone came around from second, beating the throw to the plate with a head-first dive.
"This is just the most amazing feeling,'' Desimone said. "We haven't won a sectional since 2011, so for us to get one is just crazy.''
So why so emotional at second base in the seventh inning?
"I'm hitting fourth, the clean up hitter, and I was 0-3 last night in the semifinal game and I was 0-3 again tonight until my hit in the seventh,'' Desimone explained. "I just wanted to come through so badly for my team and give us a chance to still win the game. Then when we did ... it was incredible.''
Knox had taken the lead in the top of the seventh inning on a single by Emily Rotering that scored MaKenzie Morgan from third. Morgan had opened the inning with a walk.
Jimtown coach Brandy Eberhart had the first two hitters in the bottom of the seventh – Gianna Desimone and Julia Bowman try to bunt their way on to start a rally. However, Knox senior pitcher McKenzie McIntire threw out both runners, leading up to the Jimmies two-out rally.
"We rallied in the top of the seventh last night (a 5-3 win over Culver Academy) with bunt hits and I thought we could do it again,'' Eberhart said. "But the pitcher made a good play on both of them.''
Eberhart had done a great job all evening of pushing the right buttons for the Jimmies, as she twice changed pitchers to end Knox rallies.
Starter Haley Holmes had a shutout for the first four innings, until Morgan homered to deep right-center with one out in the fifth to tie the game at 1-1. After Riley Goetz and Rotering each singled, Eberhart turned to Makenna Betzer to face McIntire.
Although McIntire hit the ball hard, Jessica Alvey made a nice catch of the liner and stepped on second to complete a double play.
With two on after Knox had taken the lead in the seventh, Eberhart brought in Cearia Woods to pitch and Woods responded by getting Brewer on a long fly out to Gabby Desimone in center.
"I just wanted to mix things up a little on a couple of their good hitters,'' Eberhart said. "A different motion and a different speed can get a hitter off balance just enough to get the out. Tonight, it worked for us.''
By the way, all three Jimtown pitchers are sophomores.
Jimtown took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when a bunt single by Alvey scored Weesner from third base.
The teams would exchange runs in the sixth, as Brewer would score on an error in the top of the sixth to put Knox up 2-1.
But Alvey was again in the mix in the home half of the inning, walking with two outs to start the rally. Freshman catcher Brianna Cook then drilled a double to the gap in right-center field, which scored pinch runner Rylee McPhee with the tying run.
That set up the wild seventh inning and a disappointing loss for Knox coach Jerry Gurrado, who had led his team to the Class 3A Final Four just a year ago.
"What an awful way to lose a softball game,'' Gurrado said. "We've had trouble with errors all season and tonight against a real good ballclub, we couldn't seem to get that final out. But it wasn't just the errors, we left way too many people on base early in the game with some of our best hitters up.''
The Redskins would leave eight runners on, while also having two tossed out on the bases.
It was the first sectional title for Eberhart and one she admits caught her somewhat by surprise.
"If you had told me early in the year that we were going to win the sectional, I would have said you were crazy,'' Eberhart admitted. "But halfway through the year, the girls came together as a team and stopped playing as individuals. That's when we all saw the potential.''
WIth just one senior on the roster, Gabby Desimone knew it was up to the junior class to bring the Jimmies together.
"There are eight juniors on the team and we pounded and pounded the younger kids to try and get up to our level,'' Desimone said. "Once they had the experience and confidence, I thought we could make a run like this and maybe win the sectional.''
The last three games of the tournament were played at Elkhart Central High School, because the heavy rain made the field at NorthWood unplayable.
JIMTOWN 4, KNOX 3
Haley Holmes, Makenna Betzer (5), Cearia Woods (7, W); McKenzie McIntire (L).
Jimtown: Hits – Morgan Weesner 2. 2B – Brianna Cook, Gabby Desimone.
Record: Jimtown 16-9.