WARMINSTER >> The team’s designated slapper, this time Gabrielle Landis landed a haymaker.
“First one I’ve ever hit before,” the Faith Christian center fielder said of her sixth-inning home run Tuesday, and she couldn’t have picked a better time for it, bringing her team within one and forever tilting momentum in their favor. “It was really exciting because we were all really hyped, really into the game. We all really wanted it.”
Landis’ solo shot was followed up by Emily Blake’s walk-off hit in the seventh, and just like that, Faith Christian secured its first district title in 19 years, pushing past upset-minded Christian Academy 6-5 in a cold, wet District 1-A Final at William Tennent High.
“You’re making me shake out there, man,” shortstop Bryanna Hoover said to Landis and Blake afterwards, happily commending them for their play. “They’re both amazing players.”
The victory sends Faith to a Thursday showdown with District 12 Champion Maritime Charter, 4 p.m. at Bensalem, with the winner advancing to states.
“It was such a brutal early spring, and you’re inside, all the time. We have a small gym and this team worked,” Lions coach Rod Blake said. “They’re workers and they’re encouragers.”
Faith was trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, just four outs from defeat when Landis stepped to the plate and cranked one well over the fence in right center.
“She’s such a great hitter and great fielder,” Blake said of his best slap hitter, this time driving it deep. “She’s such a great representative of our team. She’s so versatile. She’ll play first for us. She’ll play center field. I’ll move her to left.
“I’ll have her bat ninth in the lineup, sometimes fourth in the lineup. I’ll have her slap. She’s just one of those players that every team really wants.”
The homer by Landis (3-for-3, R, RBI) set up a big seventh for Faith.
Christian Academy starter Carly Heron got Myah Brown to pop out but then Camryn Logue ripped a single to left to get the tying run on for the top-seeded Lions.
Logue stole second and then scored on a single by Sam Firely, making it 5-5. Firely advanced to second on an error and moments later stole third, narrowly beating the tag by Grace Gormley.
Blake came up and poked one into the promised land for Faith.
“I thought they were gonna purposely walk me but she just pitched one down the middle and I just took my chance on it,” said Blake, who delivered the game winner into the gap in left center.
It was the third and final lead change of a back-and-forth afternoon.
In the first, Gormley (3-for-3, 3R) singled and scored on a groundout by Heron to make it 1-0 Christian Academy before Faith answered in the bottom half, going ahead 2-1 on a ground ball by Firely and a double to center by Hoover.
The No. 3 Crusaders went back in front in the third on back-to-back RBI hits by Lindsay Haseltine and Heron, making it 3-2, but then Faith tied it all up in the third, two costly errors by Christian Academy allowing one to push across.
But the underdogs came right back. A hard-hit liner to right by Haseltine and a triple by Heron provided a 5-3 lead in the fifth.
From there, Blake was tough to crack, the right hander surrendering only one hit while the Lions mounted their comeback. Blake struck out seven in the victory.
“It was a great game,” said Christian Academy coach Rod Haseltine, whose team lost a pair of one-sided affairs to Faith in the regular season but this time gave the Lions all they could handle. “Faith’s a very good team and I’m glad we were able to stay with them.
“That was definitely our best game of the season.”
Down 5-3 with two outs in the sixth, Landis swung the Lions right back into it.
“Without her, I don’t think we would have won,” Blake said, “because her hit definitely got us more into it and got thoughts of losing out of our head.”