Stunning rally carries Smyrna-Clayton to Senior League softball state crown

Smyrna-Clayton players and coaches celebrate their Senior League state softball championship. Submitted photo/Melissa Silves

NEW CASTLE — Trailing by one run headed into its final at-bat did not seem too bad for Smyrna-Clayton.

After all, these Senior League Softball all-stars had already faced two different seven-run deficits and were still in the game.

True to the form of this contest, Smyrna-Clayton rallied again and took home a banner.

Tanaya Wilson’s walkoff single completed an epic comeback as the Smyrna-Clayton all-stars won the Senior League state championship with a 14-13 victory over Suburban in the title game Wednesday night in New Castle. It is the first ever Senior League softball state title for Smyrna-Clayton, which won its first District I title at this level just one week ago.

Smyrna-Clayton trailed 6-0, 8-1 and 13-6 at different points in the game.

“We’re Smyrna and everybody knows Smyrna doesn’t give up,” Wilson said. “We always fight to the end until we pull through.”

Smyrna-Clayton advanced to the East Regional, hosted in Worcester, Mass. The regional begins Saturday, July 20. The winner qualifies for the World Series, hosted by Delaware District III in Roxana.

Jayde Rivera paced Smyrna-Clayton’s offense Wednesday with a home run, triple and three RBI. Wilson added three hits, two runs and two RBI while Rachel Brown had three hits, scored three times and knocked in a pair of runs.

Emily Long also recorded three hits and two RBI. Annaleyse Huester doubled and knocked in a pair while Skylar Berge scored twice. Emma Lagarelli had a hit and a RBI while Cheyenne Silves had a hit and a run scored.

Smyrna-Clayton’s only run through the first four innings was a solo homer by Rivera. It then scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth, six in the bottom of the sixth and the final two runs in the seventh.

“I always believe in my team,” Rivera said. “We’ve been down before. We just got to keep our heads up. It feels very good. We’re super excited.”

“The heart of this team is unlike any team I’ve ever been associated with,” said Smyrna-Clayton manager Pat Long. “I don’t even know how many runs we came back from, I know it was like 6-0 or 7-0 at one point, something like that. The heart of this team is incredible. They never gave up. You can never sleep on any of these kids.”

Brown started the fifth-inning rally with a RBI-single. Emily Long legged out an infield single to plate another run before Huester delivered the big blow with a double which plated two runs and a third came home after a wild throw to clear the bases.

Brown again knocked in the first run of an inning with another RBI-single to spark the six-run outburst in the sixth. Wilson kept the line moving with a RBI-single of her own and Rivera followed her with a triple to score a pair.

Long and Lagarelli each provided a RBI-single for the final two runs of the inning to cut the deficit to 13-12.

Berge led off the seventh by getting to second on a dropped flyball. Brown then reached on a fielding error as a wild throw allowed Berge to score and Brown to move to second.

Wilson then poked a grounder through the right-side to score Brown and begin the celebration.

“I was going nuts,” Wilson said. “This was so exciting. It means a lot to all of us. We got our first District championship, first state championship and now we’re going to Massachusetts and hopefully we can bring home our first Regional championship.”

Smyrna-Clayton won the first game of the best-of-three series 7-4 over Suburban on Tuesday. If Smyrna-Clayton lost Wednesday, it would have set up a winner-take-all contest tonight.

But thanks to the three separate rallies, that game won’t be necessary.

“We wanted to get it over with,” Pat Long said. “We didn’t want to play the ‘if’ game. We thought it was a must-win.”

The final inning was set up thanks to a 1-2-3 top of the seventh behind Smyrna-Clayton pitcher Jen Payton which kept Suburban’s advantage at only one run. Smyrna-Clayton never led until Brown crossed the plate on the final play of the game.

“We were in the right positions to make the plays and we executed the plays,” Long said. “This group is incredible. That team over there (Suburban), was incredible too, they were our toughest competition and hats off to them.”

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