Deja Stallard crushed the Lady Warriors' momentum when she turned a terrific double play from centerfield in the top of the seventh inning in Tuesday's Region 2A West softball semifinals at Honaker.
The Lady Spartans went on to survive the 26-hit slugfest 8-6 to clinch their third consecutive VHSL Final Four appearance.
It was the second time in as many days that an Eastside outfielder turned a sterling DP to pull the plug on a rallying opponent .
"Thank goodness. My outfield has been looking strong lately," said Lady Spartans coach Suzi Atwood, who got a huge play in right field from Kelly Sykes in Monday's 3-0 win over Northwood.
Eastside (20-2) appeared in last year's Division 1 Final Four, winning the Division 2 state title in 2012. The Lady Warriors will face Auburn (22-3) in the 2A West championship game, which will be played at 6 p.m. Thursday at Honaker. Auburn beat Honaker 7-2 in Tuesday's opener.
Both teams advance to next week's VHSL 2A Final Four, the semifinals of which will be played at the Moyer Complex in Salem with the finals at Radford University.
After falling behind 8-0 during Eastside's explosive five-run fourth that included Lindsay Dean's three-run homer over left, Chilhowie (16-6) stunned the Lady Spartans with four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth.
Chilhowie pitcher Hannah Compton (15-6) came up with two shutout frames while Lady Warriors coach John Sabo exhorted his comeback-hungry lineup.
A leadoff single by Ki Ki Murphy (who went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI) carried the momentum over into seventh. Jensen Sturgill followed with a lick that looked like it would drop for a gap shot.
Stallard, who'd been playing deep due to Chilhowie's previous displays of power, sprinted in to make the improbable catch. Murphy's startled courtesy runner, Emily Henegar scrambled to get back to first with Stallard gaining on her.
"From here on out it comes down to who wants it more. I saw it hit and I knew I could catch it. So that's what I did," said Stallard, who colleted an RBI double in the first inning..
Atwood said Stallard was moving so fast, it looked as if she intended to make the unassisted tag herself.
Dean (20-2) got touched with 13 hits, but had three of her own — including an RBI double — as Eastside heaped 13 onto Compton's book. Madison Powers went 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a sac bunt. Emily Richardson had two hits.
Mary Luttrell had three hits with a triple and three RBIs for Chilhowie (16-7). Sturgill had two hits and an RBI.
Sabo was Atwood's high school softball coach at Castlewood.
"I wish her all the luck, but I told her I was going to giver her a heck of a run. I told her we'd be enemies on the field tonight, but after that, I'll give you the hug and tell you I love you," said Sabo, who led the Lady Warriors to their first-ever softball championship.
With a roster loaded with freshmen and sophomores, it probably won't be Chilhowie's last.
"It took me 13 years to build it," Sabo said, "and now it's coming."