Munoz walk-off homer lifts Lakota East past Lakota West

LIBERTY TWP. — Amber Munoz got her chance at redemption. The Lakota East junior shortstop was seeking it after a multi-error first inning that allowed Greater Miami Conference rival Lakota West to move out to an early four-run lead.

But all was forgiven.

Munoz crushed a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Thunderhawks a 6-5 victory over the visiting Firebirds on Tuesday night.

“I was feeling really down on myself the first few innings, and I really wanted to get it back for my team,” said Munoz, who has three homers on the season. “I was really nervous going up to bat. I still can’t believe it right now. I’m so in shock. I’m just so happy we won. All my teammates are so happy.”

Lakota East snapped its three-game losing streak by beating Lakota West for the first time since 2019, when the Thunderhawks lost in the Division I state title game.

“We’ve got the ability to believe in ourselves,” Munoz said. “At first, we were in our heads. We didn’t remember who we were, and after we started hitting a little bit, we just knew that was us. We were going to win that. We just knew in the seventh inning that we were winning that.

“I think this really shows us what we have and what we’re going to be like for the rest of the season.”

The Thunderhawks (7-5, 3-1 GMC) weren’t having much success against the Firebirds, who had reeled off six consecutive wins in the rivalry.

Lakota East coach Kelley Haiber said Tuesday’s victory was a much-needed one for the program.

“They’re not really used to winning,” the third-year Thunderhawks coach said. “The program has been down for a few years, so the pressure got to them there at the beginning. That’s really what it was. This was a big thing for us to overcome.

“West is great. They’re used to winning. But that was a good win for us.”

Lakota West (3-5, 1-2 GMC) took advantage of the early miscues by Lakota East, and Jenna Dilley’s two out, two-run single capped the first inning off to give the Firebirds a 4-0 lead.

“We were running the bases well and hitting the ball well,” Lakota West coach Keith Castner said. “They helped us a little bit, but we found a way to get up early.

“You’ve got to do it throughout the whole game. You can’t just do it the first inning.”

Leah Arnett doubled to score Lilly Banks with two outs to pull the Thunderhawks to within 4-1 in the bottom of the second. Then Dilley knocked in her third RBI of the game to get that run back for the Firebirds.

Things went dormant until the bottom of the sixth when the Thunderhawks rallied with two outs to score three runs and bring the deficit to 5-4. That surge was highlighted by a Munoz RBI double.

Lakota East freshman Abrie Schulte walked to start the bottom of the seventh and advanced to third on an errant throw while stealing second. Kaleigh Crawford laced a double to bring Schulte around to tie it at 5-5, sending it to extras.

The Thunderhawks got out unscathed in the top of the eighth, and Munoz led off the bottom half with her game-winner to left-center.

“She’s a beast,” Haiber said of Munoz. “The stuff she does in the offseason and the amount of weight she lifts. That’s something we expect from her a lot. She hit a ball 240 feet a couple weeks ago. Tonight’s was an absolute bomb. That was into the teeth of the wind.”

Crawford struck out five to earn the win in the circle, while Banks went 3 for 3 with two runs and a walk for Lakota East. Munoz finished 2 for 5 with two runs and two RBIs.

Dilley (2 for 4, three RBIs) and Lizzy Meyer (2 for 4) led Lakota West, which has fell victim to three straight extra inning losses — Lakota East (6-5), Mason (6-5) and Hamilton (5-2).

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