The Rockets can hit the long ball. They made that abundantly clear Monday afternoon.
Assumption (29-8) hit five home runs to power past Ballard 7-3, punching its ticket to Tuesday’s Seventh Region final.
“We do have great power,” said Assumption head coach Lisa Pinkston. “We went into this game not thinking about hitting home runs, but just moving baserunners and trying to be on top of our hitting.”
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the Rockets seized momentum with just two swings. First, sophomore Olivia Pastin hit a towering solo home run to right field to put Assumption on the board 2-1. On the very next pitch, senior Braxton Downs went yard with a solo shot to left, tying the game 2-2.
“I think it pretty much set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Pinkston.
“OP (Olivia Pastin) and I are really tight,” said Downs. “I have so much confidence in her. We have an ongoing joke. She hits one. I hit one. So, we knew we were going to bust it open right then.
“That’s what we needed.”
Ballard (28-11) responded with some power of its own when Allie Skaggs went deep to put the Bruins back on top 3-2 in the fifth. But Assumption answered right back in the bottom of the fifth and took a lead it wouldn’t surrender. With Maggie Metzger at the plate, Amelia Cassin scored on a wild pitch to tie the game again at 3-3. In the same at-bat, Metzger homered to left for the Rockets’ first lead of the day.
“We were just trying to make adjustments every inning,” said Pinkston. “I had complete faith that my team would be able to figure things out, so we just maintained our composure, stuck with our game plan, and it paid off for us.”
The Rockets put it away in the sixth. Downs started the inning with her second deep shot of the day for a 5-3 lead. Three batters later, Cassin joined the fun with a two-run blast, Assumption’s fifth and final home run of the day. The Rockets entered the seventh inning with a comfortable 7-3 edge.
Ballard’s reign as Seventh Region champs ends two wins shy of another trip to state. However, head coach Alan Jones entered the season with a very young and experienced group. He believes his team overachieved this year.
“I am so proud of my team,” said Jones. “If you had seen this team in February or early March versus now…and we competed. We had some bad breaks, and they took advantage of it. They’re a great hitting team, and when you miss, it happens. But we never quit, even at the very end.
“This is one probably one of the first years of 28 years of coaching high school that I am satisfied.”
Despite the Rockets’ top-ten ranking, they go into Tuesday’s region final against undefeated Male as a big underdog. The Bulldogs already have two wins over the Rockets this year, but Assumption says it is ready for the challenge.
“It’s really hard to beat a team three times in a row,” said Downs. “We’ve been preparing. We have our mindset on the right things. For us seniors, our goal since the very first day we came to Assumption was that we want to win a Seventh Region championship. It is our time, and we’re going to show it.