HARRIMAN, Tenn. | There's no doubt that it has been a frustrating season for Oneida softball.
Injuries at key positions, and inexperience at other key positions, were factors in a disappointing start to 2023 after the Lady Indians had a breakout season a year ago.
But Oneida got its first win of the season on Tuesday (April 11), and did it against one of the best teams it could've done it against: Harriman, as in the same Blue Devil team that ended Oneida's season in the region semifinals a year ago … the same Blue Devil team that run-ruled Oneida in only three innings at Bear Creek earlier this season.
Harriman, which sits atop the District 4-A standings and is still undefeated in league play, exploded for a 9-1 lead in the first inning and led 15-6 going into the final inning.
But Oneida rallied for nine runs in the top of the seventh to take the lead, then held on for the 17-16 lead after Harriman loaded the bases in the bottom half.
Grace Losey was an offensive machine for Oneida, finishing with five RBIs. Fellow senior Kelsey Pike added three RBIs, while Prayleigh Welch and Annaleah Terry each drove in multiple runs, as well.
Shayla Shoemaker got credit for the win, pitching the final four innings and giving up only two hits and one earned run.
The first inning made it seem like the second game in the season series was going to go the same way as the first, a game Harriman won 21-1. After Julia Lay scored on a sacrifice fly by Losey to start the game, the Blue Devils put up nine runs in the bottom half. It was 4-1 before Oneida ever got an out, and 8-1 before the Lady Indians recorded a second out.
But if OHS was rattled by Harriman's hot start, it never showed.
Oneida held Harriman scoreless in the second inning, but then things started to get hairy in the third. Harriman hit a home run and put three more runs on the board to take a 12-1 lead going into the fourth inning.
The fourth inning saw Chelsey Jeffers lead off with a single, but then Harriman recorded back-to-back outs, and it looked like Oneida's offensive struggles against the strong Blue Devil club would continue.
Then magic started to happen.
Kennedy Shoemaker got aboard with a base hit. Welch — who had reached on a fielder's choice earlier — scored on an error after Terry put the ball into play. Shoemaker then scored on a wild pitch, and Terry scored on another error. It was a single-digit game again.
Oneida scored two more runs on a single by Losey, and Oneida actually loaded the bases before Harriman was finally able to get out of the jam.
At 12-6, the five runs scored by the Lady Indians mightn't have seemed like much. But it was the start of a comeback.
After Shayla Shoemaker sat down three straight Harriman batters in the bottom half, Oneida went right back to work in the fifth inning. Welch started things off with a lead-off double, then Kennedy Shoemaker and Terry had back-to-back RBI singles, and it was 12-8 with still no outs.
Keagan Sexton followed with yet another single, and the three straight base hits gave the Lady Indians two base-runners with still no outs in a four-run game. Suddenly, the price of poker had gone up.
Harriman was able to get out of that jam by recording three straight outs, then added two insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning, making it 14-8. The Blue Devils then made it 15-8 after the sixth inning, and Oneida was down to its last three outs.
It might have seemed that Harriman could finally start to breath easier.
Oneida, however, had other plans.
First Terry walked. Then Sexton singled. Then Lay walked. Oneida had loaded the bases with no one out.
Another walk by Pike made it 15-9. A two-run single by Losey made it 15-11. It was back to a four-run game, and there was still no one out.
Harriman managed to get a strikeout for the first out of the seventh, but pitching had become a major issue for the Blue Devils.
Jolie Duncan reached base on balls, before an two-run single by Welch made it 15-13.
Then Kennedy Shoemaker got back on base with an error, and the bases were loaded with still just one out.
Terry walked for the second time in the inning to score Duncan and make it 15-14.
And then Harriman recorded an out on a pop-up. Oneida's comeback was in jeopardy of falling just short; the Lady Indians were down to their last out.
But Harriman's pitching troubles hadn't gone away. Lay walked for the second time in the inning to score Welch and tie the game. And then Pike hit a two-run single to center field to give the Lady Indians the lead for the first time since it was 1-0 in the top of the first inning.
Harriman finally got out of the inning, and immediately set about the task of attempting a rally of its own. The Blue Devils got a lead-off walk, scored a run on a wild pitch, and then loaded the bases with two outs after Oneida committed a pair of errors on back-to-back opportunies to win the game.
Finally, with the bases loaded, and two outs, Pike came up with a clean play on a grounder to her shortstop position, made the throw to Jeffers at first, and the game was over on one of the most improbable comebacks imaginable.
The Lady Indians will return to action on Friday, when they host York Institute at Bear Creek. First pitch is scheduled for 6pm as Dava Laxton's squad goes for back-to-back wins.