DECATUR — As soon as Charleston coach Blain Mayhall gave Dee Campbell the green light to swing away, nerves started to creep into Campbell's mind, even if they were ever-so-slight.
On one hand, she knew she had to atone for not successfully getting a sacrifice bunt down in the bottom of the sixth inning, likely costing Charleston a run in Wednesday's Class 3A (Mount Zion) Sectional semifinal against Chatham Glenwood, played at Workman Family Softball Field on the campus of Millikin. On the other hand, she hadn't been hitting Glenwood starter Terin Teeter all game. Campbell stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning sitting 0-for-3 with the game-winning run on second base.
She wasn't expecting Teeter to pitch her inside, but when Campbell saw a pitch on an 0-2 count, the ball was there waiting over the plate and Campbell roped the ball to left field, scoring Ramsey Armstrong for a walk-off double to send the Trojans (30-4) to a 2-1 win over Glenwood and on to Saturday's sectional championship game.
“I better make up for it," Campbell said. "If I got that bunt down we would have two runs. I had to get that run somehow to make up for that run that I missed.
“I’ve been hitting not as good as I usually do. It felt really good. I’ve been hitting well in practice this week. I knew if she gave me that pitch that I really needed that I could jack it, so that’s what I did."
In fact, Mayhall could feel the walk-off hit coming. Charleston started making better contact against Teeter as the game went on, but each hit landed right into the glove of a Glenwood (21-10) defender.
If the Trojans could set down the top of the Glenwood order in the top of the eighth inning, Mayhall knew his team was on the cusp of ending the game. The only thing Mayhall was unsure of was which of his players would come up with the winning hit. This time around it was Campbell, who also hit a walk-off home run against Paris on May 1.
“It was time for her to hit and she got that inside pitch, which she wanted, and took it where it needed to go," Mayhall said.
Even getting to the eighth inning required a brilliant dance. Charleston didn't field bunts by the first two Glenwood batters of the game, putting runners on first and second before Charleston starter Emily Price hit No. 3 hitter Maya Black to load the bases. A bases-loaded walk to Haley Feli with no outs in the top of the first to give Glenwood its only run of the game.
Price got a force-out on the next batter before the game was delayed nearly an hour because of lightning in the area. When the game resumed, price worked out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts to limit the damage.
“Fix it. That’s it. Fix it," Price said of her thoughts during the delay.
To help her own cause, Price lined a double down the left-field line in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game. In total, she held Glenwood to five hits on on earned run.
“We’re not going to put up the massive home run numbers and jump around and dance and do all that stuff, but we play softball pretty well," Glenwood coach Vondel Edgar said. "Our kids just scrap. That’s who we are. We play good defense and those types of things. That’s who we are, and today it just didn't get us enough."
When Price connected on her double, a sense of relief flooded through the Charleston dugout. The lightning-induced marathon was over and the Trojans advanced back to the sectional championship game for the second consecutive season.
Price recalled the moment by leaning her head back, stretching out her arms before breathing out a long, drawn out, "Yesss."
"It wasn’t even like, ‘Let’s just hope it gets it.’ It was like, ‘Oh, that’s a run in and we’re done," Price said.