LANGLEY — It took a double play on an infield popup to send Midland Valley on the happiest of Monday bus rides.
Clinging to a one-run lead with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh, pitcher Kelsey Boatwright caught the ball and then quickly threw to first for the final out as the Mustangs softball team survived at home against Gilbert, 9-8, Friday night in a Class AAA state playoff elimination game.
The win sends Midland Valley to Hartsville on Monday in the Lower State finals. The Mustangs must beat Hartsville twice to win the Lower State title.
“I was in awe,” Midland Valley coach Michelle Yeater said about the last play. “Luckily, (catcher Morgan Smith) was behind the plate and told Kelsey when she caught it to go to one, because she realized the runner had already taken off for second, trying to get as many scores as possible.”
The Mustangs hung on after they led 9-3 going to the fourth. They scored eight of their runs in the third, with Carly Clark driving in two on a double and Smith sending two more home when her batted ball went off the left fielder’s glove.
But Gracie Gunter had the biggest hit, smacking a grand slam in the huge inning.
The Mustangs, who also got a first-inning home run from Smith, didn’t score after the eight-run burst, as Gabby Keisler came in relief and threw three scoreless innings.
Boatwright and Emily Mayson tried to hold the lead, but the Indians hit three home runs in the game to try to rally.
In the fourth, Lyndie and Alicia Dorgan both cleared the fence to make it 9-6.
Gilbert, which won the first two season meetings by one run both times, then got even closer on a Keisler two-run single in the fifth.
But the Lady Mustangs had just enough left the last two innings to set up a showdown with Hartsville, which beat Midland Valley on Wednesday.
“We kept saying, coming back from Hartsville, ‘Third time’s a charm,’ ” Yeater said.