Avery Shepherd gazed into right center field and visualized the ball sailing over the fence.
“My Dad taught me to look somewhere and pick a spot,” the Southeastern High School junior said. “I just look out and pick a spot. I thought ‘I don’t have anything to lose, this is my game’.”
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One pitch later, Shepherd smashed a two-run home run to help send her team to the Division IV district finals.
Shepherd’s 12th home run of the season sealed the Trojans’ 6-4 victory over Franklin Monroe in a D-IV sectional final game at Brookville High School on Tuesday.
“We came together and really put in the work this week,” Shepherd said. “We were here to win.”
The Trojans advanced to the district finals for the second time in four years, despite four errors.
“It’s a big relief after the kind of year we’ve had,” said Southeastern coach Randy “Tojo” Delaney. “It takes a lot of pressure off. Our kids played well, but we had nerves. You could see it.”
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Southeastern (24-2) will play Ohio Heritage Conference rival Mechanicsburg (17-3) in a D-IV district final at 11 a.m. Saturday at Versailles High School. The OHC South Division champion Trojans fell to the Ohio North Division champion Indians 13-2 on April 15.
Southeastern’s Autumn Jones went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs and Taylor Lewis went 2-for-2 for the Trojans.
Shelby Grim picked up her 16th win of the season and Shepherd pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to earn the save.
The Jets took an early 1-0 advantage in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Chloe Brumbaugh scored Chloe McGlinch from third.
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Southeastern would claim a 2-0 lead in the second inning. After back-to-back one-out singles by Maris Cordial and Alyssa Lambert, Grim drove in the first run with a single and Jenny Myers drove in another run on a grounder to third.
Southeastern struck again in the third inning. Lewis led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Rylee Harrington. After the Jets intentionally walked Shepherd, Jones doubled to give the Trojans a 4-0 lead.
The Jets’ Skylar Bauman tripled with one out in the fourth inning and scored on a single by Taylor Armstrong. Chloe Henninger and Chloe Peters followed with back-to-back singles, loading the bases and chasing Grim from the game. Armstrong scored on a fielder’s’ choice, but the Trojans held their 4-3 lead with Shepherd on the mound.
Lewis singled to start the fifth inning before Shepherd’s long ball gave the Trojans a 6-3 lead and a lead it would never relinquish.
“She’s been clutch in those situations,” Delaney said.
The Trojans allowed one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but held on for the victory.
Southeastern knew it had potential, but didn’t expect to be back in the district finals, Delaney said. The Trojans are now one win away from advancing to the D-IV regionals for the first time since 2014.
“It’s just great for our kids to get to enjoy something like that and see how much fun this game can be,” Delaney said. “You don’t get there just by saying you’re going to do it.”
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