Per the international tiebreaker rule, Darian Van Bloom was placed at second to start the inning with the scored tied at 2-all. After a putout and groundout left Van Bloom on third with two outs, Katy Stamey extended the inning with a walk to leave runners at the corners.
Rowe took a ball on the first pitch she saw from Mackenzie Kayler, but she slammed the second into the air in straightaway center field. Lassiter center fielder Carli Kayler — Mackenzie’s younger sister — jumped in an attempt for the game-saving catch. The ball went into her glove, but it ricocheted over the wall as she crashed into the outfield fence.
The three-run cushion was all Cherokee pitcher Savanna Dover needed as she retired the side in the bottom half of the frame to preserve the win.
Lassiter (15-1-1, 3-1) saw a 16-game unbeaten streak come to end with the loss. For Cherokee (12-4-1, 2-1), it was its third extra-inning contest in four games.
“The minute I hit it off the bat, it felt good,” Rowe said. “I knew it was long, and I thought it was going to get caught, but it fell into place and got over.
“We definitely needed that win. Every time we play Lassiter, it’s always an important game, and I’m glad we finally were able to pull together against them.”
Cherokee scored two runs off three hits and an error in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead. Van Bloom singled to start the frame, and Stamey later hit a two-out RBI single for the team’s first score. Rowe followed with a single to center that moved Stamey to third, but the ball was misplayed, allowing Stamey to come home on the error.
Lassiter, however, chipped away at the lead over the next two frames. Mackenzie Kayler walked to lead off the fourth, but was replaced by courtesy runner Andrea Summey. Dover fielded a one-out bunt from Veronica Ulicny two batters later, but her throwing error to the plate allowed Summey to score and trim the margin to 2-1.
Lassiter’s Kelly Sinclair led off the following inning with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, reached third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Elise Sandberg’s fielder’s choice. Sinclair was nearly thrown out at home on the play, but she escaped a rundown for the game-tying score.
Rowe batted 2-for-4 with three RBIs to pace Cherokee, while Stamey was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Dover gave up two unearned runs on two hits and struck out 11, but she also walked five and hit two batters to give Lassiter scoring opportunities.
“After that last heartbreaker (a 1-0 loss to Etowah on Aug. 29), we needed to come back and get a win (Thursday),” Cherokee coach Tonya Carlisle said. “We’ve had a few extra-inning games like that, and they can get in your head, so it was good to get this one. We had some clutch hits (Thursday) that we didn’t have against Etowah, so it’s nice to 2-1 in the region instead of 1-2.”
Sinclair was 1-for-3 with a run scored to lead Lassiter, while Mackenzie Kayler gave up five runs — four earned — off six hits and struck out five.
Dover stranded runners in scoring position in the first, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings. The Lady Trojans also failed to score on a squeeze play in the bottom of the sixth that would have given them a one-run lead.
“I knew Cherokee would be tough,” Lassiter coach Jason Campbell said. “They always are. They’ll execute well, and you have to execute behind them to win. We did some things that could have changed the outcome of this game, but we made some mistakes that we should know better not to do.”