POWHATAN - Before junior and UCONN commit Rileigh De Weese had stepped up to the plate for her fourth time that day against Chancellor, several strokes had come together to paint the picture-perfect scenario for a Powhatan Softball team that at that point was trailing.
Exhibiting patience at the plate, Madeline Peloke sliced a single into left field, Briana Hensley walked against the full count and Lindsey Elam reached first just as Peloke slid to third base behind the fielder, who bobbled the ball, to load the bases.
They were the first three batters up in the bottom of the fifth inning, and three-hole batter De Weese, who was already batting 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a double, now had her turn to go after Chancellor's lead with no outs on the board.
She did more than that.
The hammering contact by De Weese's bat lifted the ball into a rocketing trajectory and floated it over the center field fence, and the Indians' players stormed home plate to mob De Weese, who rounded the bases. Her grand slam had just catapulted Powhatan out of a 1-run hole and into a 3-run lead.
Those four runs, head coach Marie Crump noted, gave the Indians a little bit of a cushion that they needed. It not only helped them fend off Chancellor 9-7, but it pushed them into the next round of the Region 4B playoffs.
But it wasn't pretty.
"It wasn't our typical game; was it nerves? I don't know; was it because it was a regional game and we played a team that we hadn't seen before? I don't know," Crump said while adding: "We have to be proud of the fact that we didn't put our heads down and we came back."
Even when a 5-run third frame catapulted Chancellor back into the lead and the Indians found themselves trailing 6-4, Powhatan's players were cheering each other on from the dugout, they were smiling in between plays and they reacted positively after making big plays to rally the home team back into the game. No frustration was on display.
"That's key - I think they knew they could do it, it was just a matter of getting out there and doing it," Crump said. "A lot of that's confidence and knowing you can."
Peloke, who had shoulder surgery before the start of the regular season, played her first game back and made an impact both in the pitcher's circle and at the plate.She battled with walks in the circle, but struck out 4 batters, all looking, across the third and fourth frames. She also brought the fiery at-bats, hitting 3-for-3 with a run scored and a double that she slapped down the left field line in the sixth inning.
"We knew we couldn't throw her a lot," Crump said of Peloke. "She's been pitching in practice, [but] that was her first time she's pitched against a batter, so it was a good opportunity for her to step in and get some reps in a game."
Sarah English, who started the game at pitcher and returned to the circle in the fifth with one runner on base, struck out 4 and earned the win over 5.1 innings pitched. English also batted 2-for-4 and scored a run.
Chancellor in the game struck first, loading the bases on two infield errors and a walk, and then moving Regan Bestick across home plate off of Mary Fisher grounding into a fielder's choice, with the 4-3 defensive play getting sparked by a diving stop from Powhatan's second baseman Briana Hensley.
But after two quick outs, Powhatan's bats returned to the plate in the bottom of the second inning...
...and they erupted.
English drilled a line drive single, moved all the way to third base on back-to-back bunts from Emmalee Lawson and Maddy Hayden, and was one of two runners to dash home off of a two-RBI laser launched by freshman Savannah Johnson. Hensley skipped an RBI single beyond the diamond, and she soon scored off of back-to-back singles from Elam and De Weese, with De Weese batting her in to elevate Powhatan into a 4-1 advantage.
But the visitors surged right back, loading the bases on a walk, a single and an error, and then taking a 2-run lead as Erin Dameron skipped the ball past an infielder for 2 runs, a bunt by Nichole Woods enabled Bestick to speed home - with the umpire calling her safe on the tag at home plate - Fisher launched a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch enabled an insurance run to score.
De Weese initiated Powhatan's rally in the fourth inning when she smashed an RBI double into the outfield to bring home Elam, who had reached base on a fielder's error. And then, after English and the defense stranded two runners in the top of the fifth, De Weese crushed the grand slam in the bottom of the frame to send the Indians back into the lead for good.
De Weese batted 4-for-4 with the slam, the double and a whopping 6 RBIs. She also reached base on an intentional walk in the sixth. Lawson batted 2-for-4, and Hensley and Elam each scored 2 runs.
As the Indians face an unknown team in Caroline on Thursday, May 23 at 5 p.m. at Caroline High School, Crump said that, with this particular team that she has, it's about the Powhatan players themselves.
"It's not necessarily preparing for our opponent - we are continually preparing and trying to improve ourselves, and that's what we've tried to focus on all year long," Crump said, "because we've got to get ourselves, individually and as a team, better and better and better, and that's what our focus is going to be. We want to go out and play the way they have practiced all year long."