As she recalled watching the final out fall into first baseman Bailey Emmert’s mitt, Battery Creek pitcher Alexis Ortiz pointed out her wounds — not from the battle, but from the celebration.
After throwing a one-hitter and blasting the go-ahead home run, Ortiz found herself at the bottom of a dogpile with catcher McKenzie Young as the Dolphins celebrated a 2-1 win over visiting Union County that clinched the Class 3A state championship Wednesday night.
Ortiz pitched another gem, and she and Emily Crosby each hit long home runs in the fourth inning to give Battery Creek its first state championship in softball and its first in any sport since 2015. The Dolphins celebrated the win with a huge home crowd that packed the bleachers and lined the fences around much of the field.
“I don’t even have words to describe it,” Ortiz said. “We’ve had so much support. It’s just the best feeling in the world.”
Ortiz made only one mistake, allowing Union County’s Kristin Kicidis to pull a pitch down the left-field line for a home run leading off the second inning.
The Dolphins didn’t have a hit through three innings against Bailey Betenbaugh, but Crosby changed that when she teed off on a 2-2 changeup and drove it over the left-field fence to tie the game.
“I just had a feeling she was going to throw that changeup, and I just told myself to keep my weight back,” Crosby said. “Obviously, it worked.”
Ortiz followed two batters later and crushed a 3-2 pitch to left-center to give the Dolphins the lead, and she made sure it stood up.
The Yellowjackets didn’t manage another hit after the Kicidis home run. The only time they threatened was in the fifth, when Ortiz hit the leadoff batter and a two-out error put runners at the corners before the Dolphins got out of the jam.
Ortiz needed only five pitches — and a nifty over-the-shoulder catch from shortstop Journeigh Doray on a looping liner into left-center — to retire the side in order in the seventh, resulting in the mountain of Dolphins that Ortiz and Young found themselves on the bottom of in front of home plate.
Ortiz pitched all 48 postseason innings for the Dolphins, allowing four runs for a 0.58 ERA. She gave up 16 hits and eight walks and struck out 66.
“I just do better under pressure, in bigger games. I’ve always done that,” Ortiz said. “I believe in myself and believe in my team.”
There were times early in the season when the Dolphins had to be reminded to believe in themselves. They lost seven of their first eight games against a brutal early-season schedule designed to prepare them for the postseason.
Mission accomplished. In seven postseason games, Battery Creek outscored its opponents 33-4.
“It’s a tribute to the kids we have. I came in and tried to help them instill a championship attitude,” second-year coach Chris Carr said. “I’m really fortunate we had some talented kids and they bought in to everything we were talking about. We kind of had all those special ingredients that made for a historic day like today.”
It fulfills a dream a long time in the making for the core of Battery Creek’s team, many of whom have played travel ball together since age 7.
“We knew we were good enough,” Young said. “Honestly, we’ve worked our butts off to get to where we are right now.”
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