Tara Kelley hits a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull out the victory

It’s safe to say that on a perfect spring day in Taft nerves and emotions would be running all over the place and at a higher level than normal for the semi final round of the CIF-CS Division IV playoffs.

 After the roller coaster ride, the Taft varsity softball team along with their fans could happily exhale after the No.1 seeded Lady Wildcats came back to defeat the No.4 Riverdale Cowboys 4-3 in eight innings to advance to the championship game.

“It feels awesome,” Tara Kelley said of hitting the home run. “I wasn’t expecting to hit that. I am so excited.”

“It was a great win,” said Taft coach Russell Emberson. “The girls battled the whole time. I feel so great for Tara Kelley.”

With the victory, Taft heads to the title game Friday where they will face Fowler.

Taft’s offense was rumbling in the bottom of the first inning with Caitlyn Emberson’s line drive lead off single and Haylee Tracy’s double to put runners at second and third. However, Riverdale got a force out at the plate, a line drive out and a pop up to get out of the jam.

Riverdale broke the scoreless tie in the top of the third inning with a one out walk to Jessica Morgan. Morgan went on to steal second before taking third on a passed ball. Following a walk, Lisette Gonzalez singled in the run while putting runners on first and third. However, Arizona Pilgrim got the next batter to ground out.

Taft had a repeat of history in the bottom of the third inning with Emberson’s leadoff single while Tracy was by a pitch. The next three batters were retired to end the threat.

Riverdale expanded their lead a half inning later when Katie Conway reached base after a throw pulled the Taft first baseman off the bag.

Two batters later, Cailey Sanzberro crushed a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence for a two run home run. Following the hit, the Lady Cowboys would only get one more runner one base over the final four innings of the game.

Taft started making their comeback in the bottom of the fifth inning with Kelsey Wilmer’s leadoff double to left field and Emberson’s single to right field. Pinch runner Johanna Wilke advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a groundout before scoring on Clarissa Rivas’ single up the middle.

The Lady Wildcats didn’t get their next scoring opportunity until the bottom of the seventh.

Emberson led off the charge with a single up the middle. Wilke advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a wild pitch. Yet, the Lady Wildcats were down to their final batter and out. During one of those pitches, the Riverdale pitcher threw a wild pitch allowing Wilke to score and tie the game.

The stage was set for Kelley. With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning Kelley sent a 2-2 pitch over the center field fence.

“Right now it’s the biggest win,” Emberson said.

Taft will look to do one better Friday. The game begins at 4:30 p.m.