JAY — Melora Lavoie was running hard.
Head down, determined to reach base, she was hoping her two-out hit would land somewhere.
She didn't think she hit it very well, and it wasn't until her team celebrated that the junior first baseman learned it's fate.
It was over the fence, her first home run.
The three-run blast broke open a tie game and lifted No. 11 Poland to a thrilling 8-5 win over No. 6 Spruce Mountain in a Western B preliminary round game.
"I felt like I didn't even hit it at all," said Lavoie. "I was running around the bases and my first base coach lost it. That's when I knew."
It was a significant slump-buster for Lavoie, who'd been struggling at the plate.
"At the beginning of the season, I was hitting better," said Lavoie, who was batting in the fifth slot Tuesday. "Then I hit a wicked bad patch where I was striking out and hitting it to first."
Poland (8-9) lost five straight to end the regular season, but still earned the 11th seed in Western B. The win over the sixth-ranked Phoenix (12-5) advances the Knights to Thursday's quarterfinal at Leavitt.
"We're on Cloud Nine right now," Poland coach Kat McKay said. "My kids came into this knowing there was no pressure on us. The pressure was all on them. They were the upper seed. I don't think anybody thought we'd make it this far this year. This was going to be just another game for us."
Poland jumped out to the early lead with three runs in the first, but watched Spruce Mountain stay close. The Phoenix finally tied the game in the fifth with a pair of runs, making it 5-5.
"When it was tied, it just gave us more motivation to win it," said Lavoie. "It feels that much better when it's that close of a game. If we win by 20, it's not that rewarding. So when it's that close, and to win it at the last minute, it's just crazy."
Lavoie finished with two hits and three RBI. Katrina Seeley and Amanda Gibson each had two hits. Seeley added a sensational catch in center in the seventh, and Gibson drove in a run.
Spruce Mountain got four hits and an RBI from Kathryn Ventrella. Ashlee Quirrion had three hits and two RBI while Alexi Deering, Emily Keene and Emily Acritelli each had a pair of hits.
Poland pitcher Kolby Wood struck out four and didn't walk any. The Phoenix pounded out 14 hits, but Wood was solid and got some errorless ball in the field behind her. She also escaped threats in the final three innings.
"For a freshman, she held her composure really well," said McKay. "She leads from the mound."
Spruce Mountain's Paula Despres struggled in the first, allowing three runs on four hits. She settled down and only allowed three hits through the next five innings until Poland got three, including Lavoie's homer in the seventh.
"We've had so many games where we've gotten into the final innings and we've lost it," said Lavoie. "That meant a lot to just hit it over the fence, I'd never done that before."
With the game tied 5-5 entering the seventh, Poland got a hit from Seeley. After the second out, Brittina Maheux singled. Lavoie had a single early in the game but had also struck out and flied out to first. With the umpire calling low pitches, it wasn't her kind of strike zone. She got a pitch up and put it over the fence in center.
"Melora was due," said McKay. "She's been due for about a week now. She's been in kind of a slump. That pitch was perfect for her. It was high in the zone, and she took it where it needed to go."
Poland jumped out to the quick 3-0 lead in the first with four singles despite a steady rain that nearly washed the field out. Maheux and Gibson each walked in runs while Katie Love singled in a run.
"I told them to come out swinging and they did," said McKay.
Spruce Mountain got two back in the bottom of the first. Quirrion and Ventrella each doubled in runs to cut the lead to 3-2.
Poland upped the lead to 5-2 in the fourth when a Makayla Dube grounder scored a run and a Phoenix error allowed another Knight run.
Spruce answered with a Quirrion RBI single in the fourth. Then in the fifth, Keene singled in a run and Acritelli's infield hit tied it.
"They hit very well," said McKay. "Kolby threw strikes and they hit them. You can't take anything away from their bats. They have some good solid players, and they put the ball in play."
The Phoenix got Quirrion on in the sixth with a hit. She reached third on a wild pitch, but Wood got a pair of fly outs to end the threat and preserve the tie. After Lavoie's homer in the top of the seventh, Wood allowed a Ventrella hit but got three fly ball outs, including a sinking liner that Seeley made a diving, backhanded grab on.