Throughout her storied high school career, Bayli Toy has been a model of consistency.
In her four years, Toy has pitched in a number of important contests, leading the Golden Eagles to many unforgettable triumphs in that time frame.
And in another extra-innings classic, Toy put together not only the best performance of her Oak Hill tenure, but one of the best in the illustrious history of Grant County softball, as the Golden Eagles won their first regional championship with a 2-0, 14-inning victory over the Southmont Mounties on Tuesday evening.
“It was the biggest game in Oak Hill softball history,” Oak Hill Head Coach Ben Johnson said. “This was. She showed up absolutely huge. It always starts in that circle, and our circle was just dynamite.”
Toy pitched all 14 innings, and was locked in from the start. She carried a perfect game into the seventh, retiring the first 19 Southmont batters she faced – nine via strikeout. She did not allow her first hit until the eighth – a single – and allowed just two more hits after that – also singles. She showed expert command of her pitches throughout the contest, mixing her fastball and off-speed pitches effectively and keeping the Southmont lineup off-balance all evening long.
“Coming into this game, I was like ‘they haven’t seen me. They’re far away. They don’t know what I have.’ It finally paid off tonight,” Toy said. “I was just locked in and throwing every pitch like it was the last one I could ever throw. That’s what kept me going.”
Usually, the Golden Eagles go with a two-pitcher rotation of Toy and sophomore Julianne Gosnell, but the senior hurler insured her coach, and her teammates, that she could go all the way.
And Toy rewarded their faith with an outing that will be remembered forever in the Oak Hill community.
“It begins with Bayli Toy,” Johnson said. “We have an ace. Every inning, I asked Bayli, ‘hey, how’s the arm feel?’ We all wanted Bayli to do it. We all wanted Bayli to keep rolling. She kept looking over, smiling, and said ‘Coach, I’ve got this.’”
For the game, Toy allowed just three hits while striking out 14.
“She really dug deep for us tonight,” Oak Hill centerfielder Kaela Robey said. “No matter what the circumstances, she just comes out and plays her heart out for you. She told me in the ninth inning, ‘I’m getting a little tired,’ and I was like, ‘go eat something, drink some Gatorade, [because] you are finishing this game.’ And she was like, ‘I know I am.’”
“Bayli played amazing,” Oak Hill shortstop Jenessa Hasty added. “Every time she got the batters to hit [the ball] into play, I knew we would make the defensive plays. I just knew that Bayli would pitch strikes and let them hit, because she trusted us. She trusted us. We trusted her. That was the biggest thing.”
While Toy was phenomenal all evening long, Southmont’s Paige Knowling was equally as effective. In the first six innings, she was unhittable, facing 18 batters and allowing just one hit.
But the Golden Eagles made the necessary adjustments by the seventh inning, and for the final seven frames, they were able to put the bat on the ball.
“[Her riseball] got us the first couple of innings, but after we were able to watch it, we did a much better job of getting hits,” Hasty said. “That’s all we needed. We didn’t have to kill it. And that’s what we did.”
While Toy continued to deal from the mound, the Oak Hill defense made some incredible plays behind her to keep the game going. In the eighth inning, Southmont had a runner in scoring position with two outs, but Hasty made a play on a routine fly ball to end the threat.
In the 12th, Southmont had a runner at third, and designated hitter Macie Shirk crushed a ball to deep center field. But Robey made an outstanding, over the shoulder grab to keep Southmont from plating the winning run.
And in the 13th, Toy and the Golden Eagles’ defense worked around a leadoff single, highlighted by a great snag by Ella Ridgeway on a hard-hit liner to third base.
“It was my defense behind me,” Toy said. “Even when they got on, I was like ‘just do your job, my teammates will do their job.’ I love them so much, and I’m so proud of everybody.”
In games like this, there is always a hero. In the sectional final against Whitko, it was Robey who came through with the clutch hit.
And on Tuesday, that honor belonged to Korinne Perkins.
Oak Hill’s designated hitter had a few other chances earlier in the contest with runners in scoring position, but could not capitalize. In the seventh, she grounded out with runners on first and second. In the ninth, Hasty hit a two-out triple and Robey was intentionally walked, but Perkins popped up to third base to leave them stranded.
But while Perkins admitted that she struggled with some doubts, her teammates never lost faith in her.
“I knew I had not been hitting well,” Perkins said. “[But] my team kept my head up. My head could’ve have easily went down. I knew I had so many opportunities, and they kept me up. We love each other. We all do.”
“We knew that she could do it,” Toy added. “In that one inning, she got so down on herself, and that’s the thing about our team. We build each other up when we make a mistake. We believe in each other.”
Hasty led off the 14th inning with a single, and Robey reached first on a Southmont fielding error. Robey then stole second base, once again putting runners on in scoring position for Perkins.
And in the game’s biggest moment, she delivered.
“It feels great to get the big hit,” Robey said. “I really wanted it for her. I kept telling her, ‘it’s going to be you.’ She was down about not hitting well, and I told her…‘you’re going to get it.’ And she did. I was proud of her.”
On a 2-2 count, Perkins smacked a single up the middle, scoring both Hasty and Robey to give the Golden Eagles a 2-0 advantage – one they would not relinquish.
“That was the best feeling in the world,” Perkins said. “If they could make that feeling into a pill, it would cure every disease in the world.”
Armed with the lead, Toy put the finishing touches on her masterpiece, sitting the Mounties down in order in the bottom of the 14th to send Oak Hill to the semi-state – their first in school history.
Oak Hill’s 3-4-5 hitters – Hasty, Robey, and Perkins – combined for six of Oak Hill’s 11 hits in the contest, while Ridgeway finished with three hits in six at-bats in the Golden Eagles’ victory.
In a five day period, the Golden Eagles put together two of the most memorable softball contests in recent memory.
But they know they still have some work to do.
“We were going to remember this game if we went 13 innings and lost, but now that we are going to semi-state, we just get to do it all over again,” Toy said. “Hopefully, we can bring home a semi-state.”