ALBANY, Ohio — The Meigs High School softball squad had the host Alexander Spartans in some serious trouble.
Unfortunately for the Marauders on Friday, Hannah Howery had the last laugh.
That’s because Howery — Alexander’s four-year senior catcher — hammered a three-run home run to dead centerfield to break a tie game, giving the Spartans a stunning 9-6 Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division victory.
And, not only did Howery’s homer lift Alexander to the win, but it clinched at least a share of the conference championship for the Spartans for a second consecutive season.
In fact, the Red and Black’s last league loss was two years ago.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Spartans scored twice in the opening inning — before Meigs tied the tilt at 2-2 in the third.
The Spartans surged again in their third with three more runs, but Meigs managed four runs on five hits in the fourth to forge ahead 6-5.
Marauder ace pitcher Alliyah Pullins kept Alexander off the board in the next two innings, but the Spartans stormed ahead for four runs in the sixth — highlighted by Howery’s homer.
In the seventh, Meigs made one last comeback attempt, as Sadie Fox was hit by a pitch and Pullins plated a single.
With the tying run at the plate, however, Alexander ace Kendall Meeks managed to get the final two outs.
She induced Katie Gilkey into a 6-5 fielder’s choice, erasing the lead runner — and putting pressure on batter Peyton Rowe.
Rowe grounded out right back to Meeks to end the game, thus forcing the Marauders to root for Wellston on Monday and River Valley on Tuesday to upset the Spartans and force a title share.
The loss dropped the Marauders to 17-5, as they end TVC-Ohio play at 10-2 — with both losses coming against Alexander.
The Spartans raised their record to 15-5, and remain unbeaten and atop the league at 12-0.
Meigs outhit Alexander 9-8, but the Spartans came up with two clutch hits in the sixth — prior to Howery’s homer.
Against Pullins, the top three of the Alexander order all reached base, started by a leadoff double by Nicole Hudnall to right field.
Chris Paszke reached on an infield single, hitting the ball right back to Pullins, who attempted to look Hudnall back to second base.
Paszke beat out the throw to first, as Hudnall took off for third to put Spartans on the corners.
With Meeks at bat, and with her 45 career home runs, Pullins pitched to her — after walking her twice and hitting her with a pitch.
Meeks popped Pullins’ 2-1 pitch up towards third base, but the ball was dropped for an error — and Hudnall scored for the 6-6 tie.
That set up Howery, who simply smashed the first pitch she saw over the centerfield fence.
After that, Pullins was relieved in favor of Morgan Lodwick, who retired all three of the Spartans she faced.
Pullins was credited with five full innings worked, having walked five and hitting two with two strikeouts.
Meeks went the distance for the Spartans in the circle, allowing only Pullins’ single over the final three frames.
She retired the Marauders 1-2-3 in the second, fifth and sixth stanzas, after facing four batters and allowing a two-out double to Fox in the first.
Meigs made two costly first-inning errors, combined with walks to Hudnall and Meeks, for Alexander’s first two runs.
Pullins’ two-run single tied it at 2-2, scoring Devyn Oliver who singled and Taylor Swartz who walked.
In the fourth, Danielle Morris, Bre Colburn, Oliver, Fox and Pullins all singled, as Oliver’s hit to cross Morris made it 5-3 — before Fox’s two-run single to score Colburn and Oliver tied it at 5-5.
Pullins singled to center to score Swartz — who reached on a fielder’s choice — to give the Maroon and Gold the lead, but Fox was thrown out at the plate trying to score another.
The Marauders — whose non-league home game against Sissonville on Saturday was cancelled — returns to the road on Monday at Jackson.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106