TALLMADGE -- They kicked the ball around early and faced yet another deficit in what has become all too common throughout the spring.
The Tallmadge softball players, on the other hand, seemed to be oblivious to all of the tension and stress.
The Lady Blue Devils have been able to thrive with their backs against the wall a number of times in 2017.
Amazingly enough, they did once again. As a result, Tallmadge has a date in the Canton Division II district title game.
The second-seeded Lady Blue Devils earned a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over sixth-seeded Akron Springfield in a Canton district semifinal contest May 17 at Willig Park.
With the win, Tallmadge was scheduled to play top-seeded Akron Archbishop Hoban in the Canton district title game May 18. Results were not available at press time.
It was another day at the office for the Lady Blue Devils. The strategy of falling behind early, making some mistakes, rallying late and then delivering the knockout punch has been the theme for the 2017 season.
Such tactics are exactly what Tallmadge head coach Ed Seeker wants, right?
"I don't know about that," he said. "We get off to a slow start sometimes, but we finish strong."
The Lady Blue Devils trailed 4-1 after 4-1/2 innings of play. Tallmadge took advantage of some mistakes by the Lady Spartans and got some clutch hits to score three runs to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth.
With the game tied at four in the bottom of the sixth, Tallmadge had two outs and no runners on base and an 0-2 count on its leadoff batter.
Again, just like they have in a number of games throughout the season, the Lady Blue Devils (20-5) seemed to be unaware of such nerve-racking circumstances.
Tallmadge center fielder Autumn Malicoat looked at the next four pitches without taking the bat off her shoulders and ended up drawing a walk.
The speedy Malicoat then stole second, which set the stage for Lady Blue Devils' designated player Madison "P-nut" Rearick.
The left-handed slap hitter delivered.
Rearick smacked a line-drive single to left field to score Malicoat for the go-ahead run.
"Honestly, I had confidence in my team the whole time," Rearick said. "We've come back in a few games. Everyone is positive on our team. Even if you strike out, we're here to pick each other up."
Rearick is one of many players to get things going during crunch time for Tallmadge. But there are not too many players more comfortable in tense situations than the standout left-handed batter.
"She has done it all season," Seeker said of Rearick. "She has had a bunch of clutch hits and key hits with runners in scoring position. When it comes to the No. 2 spot, I would take her over anyone else in the area."
Right-hander Emily Pratt, who had her difficulties during Tallmadge's come-from-behind 13-12 victory over Canal Fulton Northwest May 12, pitched the final four innings to get the win. She improved to 12-2 on the season.
"Our defense didn't help in the first two innings," Seeker said. "I have total confidence in both of our pitchers. We have the opportunity to mix things up."
The Lady Blue Devils, who had 10 hits and one error, were able to get back in the game with their bats, speed and a little bit of misfortune from their opponents in the fifth.
Shortstop Olivia Ayres, who bats ninth in the order, smashed a line-drive, one-out single to right to get things started.
The next batter, Malicoat, laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runner.
However, Malicoat ended up being safe at first when the throw was dropped. Ayres wound up moving to third and Malicoat went to second.
Rearick followed with a short chopper toward third. As the third baseman fielded it, she hesitated and Rearick ended up beating the throw to first. Ayres wound up scoring on the play to cut Tallmadge's deficit to 4-2.
Springfield right-hander Madison Miller looked like she was going to get out of the jam.
The Lady Blue Devils tried a double steal and after the throw went to second, the ball came home.
The Lady Spartans, who had five hits and three errors, ended up getting a crucial second out when they tagged Malicoat near the plate.
Miller then got a ground ball to third off the bat of catcher Jordyn Severns, but the throw went over the first baseman's head, allowing Rearick to score from second.
Tallmadge made Springfield pay for its costly mistake.
That's because the next batter, first baseman Olivia Carey, tied the game with a line-drive single to left field.
Prior to the late-inning drama, the Lady Spartans had things under control.
Erika Johnson led off the game with a double and eventually scored on an infield error.
Springfield made it 3-0 with two runs in the second.
Lady Blue Devils' starting left-hander Hallie Mullett walked two batters in the inning and then Saira Craft ripped a run-scoring single to right.
Another run came home when Craft got caught in a rundown. Craft was able to stall enough time to allow Johnson to score from third.
Tallmadge got on the board in the fourth.
Carey reached base when the wind played havoc with a fly ball that ended up being dropped by the left fielder.
Two batters later, right fielder Alyssa Garbinsky smacked a run-scoring single to cut the Lady Blue Devils' deficit to 3-1.
Springfield came right back in the fifth to make it 4-1.
Craft led off the inning with a walk and Bailey Hall followed with a single. Craft ended up scoring when the relay throw from the outfield got past third base.
When the season ends, Seeker may want to consider a check-up with the doctor. While he has enjoyed watching his team rally time and time again, Seeker's heartbeat has probably been significantly faster than normal this spring.
"After the game, I told them not to make their coach age faster than he should," he said.