COLUMBUS -- Calhoun’s Maddie Bumgardner has just a little bit of time left on the field in her high school career, and the senior has no plans of it ending with nothing less than a state title.
The senior, who has battled health problems for much of the past two seasons, gave everything she had on Friday night, and her two homers were key in the Lady Jackets’ dramatic 8-5 comeback win in extra innings over Worth County at the Elite Eight in Columbus.
Facing a 5-1 deficit going into the sixth inning, Bumgardner connected for a two-run homer for Calhoun (29-8), which followed an RBI-single by Adella Carver to cut the deficit to one at 5-4. Then, after Anna Taylor reached to lead off the seventh on an error, the Lady Jackets moved her to third with two straight sac bunts, before Carlie Henderson came through with a huge game-saving infield RBI-single that tied the game at 5-5 and sent it to extras.
Bumgardner then stepped up again in the top of the eighth as she sent a screaming, line-drive homer over the center-field fence to make it 8-5, which would hold up for the final score.
“Just the fact that (Maddie’s) here and back in the lineup is phenomenal,” said Calhoun coach Diane Smith of Bumgardner’s determination to overcome health ailments. “Yesterday was the most she’s been on the field in a game since probably August, and she was psyched up and ready to go. She has a great stick, and she came through big for us twice tonight. She brings so much to our team. Even when she has been unable to play this year because of her health, she has been a huge motivator in the dugout and an incredible leader for our team. She is a great kid, and I’m so happy for her that she got to come through like she did tonight.”
Calhoun took a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning on a sac fly from Lyndi Rae Davis, but Worth County (29-2) responded immediately with two in the bottom half of the first on a leadoff home run by Taylor Layfield and another run coming home on an error.
Layfield added her second solo homer of the game in the second to give her team a 3-1 lead, and Worth County added single runs in the fourth and fifth inning on a solo homer by Julie Childers and an RBI fielder’s choice by Brinsley Graddy to pad their lead to 5-1.
Calhoun kept clawing though despite not much going right and were able to battle back into the game with the three runs in the sixth on Carver and Bumgardner’s back-to-back huge hits to set up Henderson’s clutch seventh-inning RBI-single.
“I knew Carlie would get the job done,” said Smith. “We were confident in her so we used two sac bunts to move the runner to third because we knew Carlie would take care of business. It took us a little while to get going tonight, but once we did, we weren’t going to be stopped.
Calhoun pitcher Maggie McBrayer probably didn’t have the best stat line she’s had this season, but the freshman continued to battle throughout the game and keep her team in it following Worth County’s five runs in the first five innings. She finished going eight innings to earn the win and allowed five runs (four earned) on three hits while striking out five and walking eight.
“Maggie was phenomenal,” said Smith. “She showed a lot of guts and kept her poise. She struggled a bit, but she never gave up. That is the characteristic of a winner. Everybody played a part tonight on the field, at the plate and in the dugout.”
Bumgardner finished 2-for-4 with her two homers, five RBIs and two runs scored, and Henderson was 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and a run to lead the offense. Carver added a hit, an RBI and two runs scored, Davis drove in a run on her sac fly and Taylor and Molly Walker also had a hit apiece.
The Lady Jackets moved into the finals with the comeback victory and will play at 9 a.m. against Cook County, who defeated Worth County late Friday night in the loser's bracket finals, 5-4. Calhoun will have to be defeated twice to not claim the state title, which would be their fourth in the last five seasons.
“The girls are confident,” said Smith. “We are exactly where we wanted to be. It doesn’t matter who we face, we’ll take on any of them. I know we can finish this thing out and win a state title.”