Mountain Ridge upsets Fort Hill, 6-5

May 10—CUMBERLAND — Mountain Ridge hurler Destinee Johnson pounded the strike zone and trusted her fielders, and they repaid that trust.

That almost got Johnson in trouble when Fort Hill's MaeLeigh Plummer ripped a long fly ball to deep center field with the Miners leading by a run in the sixth that would've been a home run at most other area parks.

Instead, centerfielder Jaianna Wickline made a sensational over-the-shoulder grab in front of the fence for her own version of Willie Mays' "The Catch."

Johnson came back and retired the final three hitters in order in the seventh to put the finishing touches on a 6-5 upset of Fort Hill in the Class 1A West Region I quarterfinals on Thursday evening at Washington Middle.

"It's the first playoff win in several years for Mountain Ridge," coach Dave Tipton said. "We struggled during the year, but I told them the other day, we're at 0-0. Both teams have a 0-0 record, we're starting fresh.

"We had a good practice, and we played the way we know how to play. Hallelujah."

Mountain Ridge entered the playoffs as the region's lowest seed after going 5-9 during the regular-season. However, thanks to a go-ahead RBI groundout by Anne Baker in the sixth and a complete-game performance by Johnson, the Miners pulled off the upset.

Fort Hill beat Mountain Ridge twice before the playoffs, but it lost the one that mattered to finish with a 9-9 record.

"Hats off to Mountain Ridge. They came ready to play," Fort Hill head coach Jason McMahan said. "We got down. We came back up 4-1. They didn't quit. They kept scrapping.

"We had five hits. Defensively, they made one or two more plays than what we did. We had a couple errors early that extended innings. In the end, disappointed obviously. ... We didn't execute as well as we did in the past."

Mountain Ridge struck first on a two-out RBI single by Maddie Bowman in the third, and Fort Hill answered with four runs in the fourth.

Paetyn Davis drew an RBI walk, Plummer plated one on a groundout, Alexis Heavner lined an RBI single and Lindsey Ternent crossed home on a wild pitch.

Just a half-inning later, Mountain Ridge regained the lead with a four-run frame of its own. Lanie Iski had the go-ahead hit, a double down the right-field line for a 5-4 lead. Maddie Bowman scored one on an RBI single, and Baker and Wickline crossed home on wild pitches.

Fort Hill leveled the score in the bottom half. Tatum Bishop led off with a double to right field and came around to score on a wild pitch.

The Miners continued the back-and-forth action when Wickline, who scored three times, was plated by a Baker groundout to give Mountain Ridge what proved to be a decisive 6-5 lead.

Johnson earned the win, allowing five runs (one earned) on five hits with a strikeout and two walks in seven innings pitched.

"I was worried that she was going to start getting tired in the fifth or sixth inning, but I think she got stronger," Tipton said. "That's what I'm talking about."

The right-hander's defense made multiple standout plays behind her, but none were bigger than Wickline's snag with one out in the sixth. If the ball fell off the center fielder's glove, then Plummer would've likely been standing on third base or touching home plate.

The Miners committed just one error to the Sentinels' three.

"We've worked on that play a thousand times," Tipton said. "Realistically, we've got burnt on it several times. We continued to work on it. ... Thank the good lord it came through."

"Kudos to (Wickline) for making that catch," McMahan said. "Sometimes in close games, a certain play, the ball bounces a certain way, will determine the winner."

Bowman and Iski both had multi-hit games for Mountain Ridge. Fort Hill's five hits were dispersed between five different players.

Plummer was dealt the loss in the circle despite a complete-game effort of her own in which the right-hander surrendered five runs (two earned) on five hits with five strikeouts and four walks in seven innings.

"MaeLeigh pitched well," McMahan said. "She had tweaked her hip in the fifth, and she was able to work through that."

With a thrilling playoff triumph in the books, Mountain Ridge now moves on to the region semifinals, where it'll meet No. 1 Allegany, unbeaten at 17-0, on Monday at Lions Field in LaVale.

"We've got to get ready for Abi (Britton)," Tipton said of the Campers' Penn State-bound pitcher. "We're just as solid a defense as they are. She throws 70 miles per hour, and she's a Division 1 pitcher for a reason. It's time to go to work tomorrow. Working on picking up the ball early.

"After a win like this, anything is possible."

Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.