They say defense wins championships.
While that is true, offense can be just as valuable in the pursuit of a title.
Especially when your back is firmly against the wall.
Down to their last out in the championship game of the 2AA-North District Softball Tournament, the Salem Lady Greyhounds stitched together an amazing last-minute rally against the Izard County Consolidated Lady Cougars to win the district tourney crown 3-2 in come-from-behind fashion April 26 at the Cougar Sports Complex in Brockwell.
A classic pitcher's duel for the first six and a half innings, the top-seeded Lady Hounds finally had some success against ICC starter Sarah Taylor in the home half of the seventh, although Taylor's second-seeded Lady Cougs (15-5) held a 2-0 lead and were a mere three outs from upsetting Salem.
After Taylor got a couple of pop-outs to start the inning, Brett Hall kept Salem's hopes alive with a hit to center.
While it was Hall who provided a spark for the Lady Hounds, it was Leslie Taylor who poured gasoline on it, setting the last inning ablaze.
Just a strike away from game-over, Taylor punched a single into right that plated Hall, who had stolen second base, giving the Lady Hounds their first run of the afternoon.
Next, it was Carrie Johnson's turn to play heroine for the Lady Hounds (17-5).
Stepping into the box right after Taylor, Johnson smacked a double to left that brought Taylor in to score the tying run. Johnson's two-bagger was the only extra-base hit of the game.
Flush with locking the game at 2-all, the Lady Hounds put the championship game away one hitter later.
Chelsea Taylor ripped a shot to center that brought Johnson home from second to score the game-winning run, giving Salem the district tourney title to go along with an undefeated march through the 2AA-North regular season. The Lady Hounds know a thing or two about district tournament titles, having won three out of the last four.
The Lady Cougars took a one-run lead in the top of the first inning, thanks to a defensive miscue on Salem's part.
With Trace Grinnell standing on second after drawing a walk and posting a steal, Brittney Richardson tried to bunt her way to first base.
Salem catcher Chelsea Taylor sprung out to field the bunt, but the throw to first was mishandled, allowing Grinnell to scamper home, giving ICC a 1-0 lead.
As it turned out, this one-run Lady Cougar lead would hold up until the seventh inning, as both starting pitchers bared down and gave no quarter to the other side.
The Lady Cougars threatened in the top of the second, loading the sacks with just one out.
Leslie Taylor then worked her way out of trouble by fanning the last two hitters of the frame to keep Salem within striking distance. Taylor earned the win for the Lady Hounds, working seven innings and allowing four hits and five walks while notching 11 strikeouts on the afternoon.
Equally effective was Sarah Taylor's performance on the hill for ICC.
Salem had runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, but Taylor dug down and got a big strikeout to keep the Lady Hounds off the board. Sarah Taylor's line for the game; eight hits, one walk, one hit batter and four Ks.
The Lady Hounds were poised to overtake the game in the bottom of the sixth, juicing the sacks with just one out.
But the Lady Cougars' defense came through with flying colors, as Taylor induced a pop-out and rang up a strikeout to leave three Lady Greyhound runners stranded.
Needing a couple of runs for insurance purposes, the Lady Cougars managed to tack one run onto their lead in the top of the seventh.
Courtney Blevins drew a walk to start the frame, and after a pair of outs, Grinnell came up huge by planting a hit up the middle of the box that brought Blevins home to give ICC a 2-0 lead.
As it turned out, the Lady Hounds had just enough gas left in the tank, getting four straight hits in the bottom of the seventh to stage a dramatic rally, leaving ICC stunned.
With the win, Salem grabbed the 2AA-North's top seed in the regional tournament, followed by the Lady Cougars at number two, Melbourne at three and Viola at number four.
Chelsea Taylor tallied three hits and the game-winning RBI for Salem, while Johnson logged a double and ribbie, and Leslie Taylor added a hit and run-batted-in. Tabitha Hall, Bailey Wagner and Brett Hall all hit safely for the Lady Greyhounds.
Grinnell tallied a hit and RBI for ICC, while Sarah Taylor, Leathyr Spangler and Chelsie Yancey tallied a hit apiece for the Lady Cougars.