BATAVIA — Trailing 4-1 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Batavia needed some heroics if they were to advance to their third sectional final over the past five seasons. Sparked by the team’s No. 8 and 9 hitters, the Blue Devils ignited a rally for the ages, rolled over into the top of the order and came through with the clutch effort they needed to push past the visiting No. 3 Midlakes Screaming Eagles, into the Class B1 Final with a 5-4 walk-off victory.
The No. 2 seed Batavia looks ahead to a matchup with No. 1 Waterloo, which defeated No. 4 Hornell, 5-4, in the other semifinal matchup. The ‘B1’ final is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Webster Thomas High School. The Blue Devils, who have fallen in each of their trips to the finals in recent years, will be looking to slay the dragon and earn themselves and head coach Jim Fazio the program’s first sectional title since he took over the program in 2019.
“This was an unbelievable high school game played by both teams. Midlakes played a great game,” said Fazio. “Our team has faced adversity all season, and the girls seem to come up big when it matters the most. I hope we have one more in us come Saturday.”
Arianna Almekinder began Batavia’s seventh-inning surge with a walk, followed by a single off the bat of No. 9 hitter Lyndsey Grazioplene before both players advanced on another free pass, this time issued to leadoff batter Hannah Carney, which loaded the bases with nobody out. That brought up No. 2 hitter Lila Fortes, who laced a base hit to left field to score a run, then Julia Clark singled to cut the deficit to one, bringing cleanup hitter Libby Grazioplene to the plate, still with nobody out.
That’s when Libby Grazioplene lofted a two-strike pitch over the left fielder’s head for a two-run single Fazio and his group will remember for quite some time as the big hit gave her three RBI for the game and helped the Blue Devils walk it off over the Eagles.
“Libby has been making solid contact all year and didn’t always get the results she wanted. Lately, the hard hits have been very productive,” said Fazio. “She is such a great contact hitter, and it paid off in spades tonight.”
Midlakes seized an early 1-0 lead through the first three innings before Batavia tied things in the fourth on Libby Grazioplene’s first RBI of the contest, which came off a single. The Eagles responded a few innings later to make it 2-1 in the sixth, then added a couple of more runs in the seventh inning to swell their advantage to three. That was before Batavia mounted a comeback that will go down in Blue Devils’ softball lore.
“Midlakes really put us back on our heels with some great situational hitting,” said Fazio on what led to the early deficit. “We made some key defensive plays in the early going keeping us in the game. So proud of our effort.”
Libby Grazioplene led the way with two hits and three RBI, while Clark added two base hits. Giana Mruczek went the distance in the circle, fanning nine and scattering six hits while working through a few defensive miscues to allow a manageable four runs.
Batavia is now 15-6.