Oak Grove found itself in need of heroics as the Lady Warriors were on the cusp of punching their first ticket to the South State title game since 2013. That was none other than freshman center fielder Bailey Bishop.
The Lady Warriors needed a spark after Northwest Rankin defeated Oak Grove 6-2 to force a winner-take-all Game 3 on Saturday.
In the top of the first inning, Bishop made a diving catch, but it was at the cost of her left shoe as it began to compromise. Bishop attempted to play through it, but on the next at-bat, the shoe ripped apart and helped the Cougars come up with a base hit.
"It just came right off," Bishop said. "I was running, and I could feel it starting to tear. As I'm running, I thought I was going to hurt my ankle, and it ripped completely. It just decided to rip on me.
"I thought I was going to play shoeless. I was going to do it. I was out there with one shoe."
Without a left shoe, Bishop's immediate reaction was to take her off right and play barefoot."
But before the game started back up, Oak Grove coach Benjy Hornsby at the spur of the moment, turned to his dugout to see who had a size eight shoe available.
"What's funny is she doesn't complain," Benjy Hornsby said. "She just takes spikes decides she'll play barefooted. I didn't want her going out there barefooted, but she adapted to the game with two different cleats on.
"She's an impactful player with her speed and stick. That's hard to come by."
Even her own teammates didn't doubt Bishop's willingness to play barefoot for the rest of the game. Not only was it a testament to her character, but it's something she has done in practice.
"She's done it in practice before," pitcher Ryanne Hornsby said. "She has a lot of grit, and she just has fun out there. She is an amazing player and has contributed so much to this team."
Bishop had her choice between an extra pair of pink cleats and eighth-grader Hannah Walker's left shoe. As for Bishop's fallen shoe, the members of the dugout placed it on a bat and dubbed it 'the rally shoe.'
"I wasn't going to wear pink ones," Bishop said. "I thought a black and white mixture would be good luck.
"We did make a rally shoe. I think we'll have to bring it to state."
That good luck followed Bishop. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with runners on first and third base and one out, Bishop delivered the game-winning hit with a two-run RBI double down the left field line to walk off the Cougars 5-4. For Bishop, the only thought in her head was not letting down the team's seniors.
"I was scared because all I could think about was my senior because I love them," Bishop said. I knew this meant a lot to them, and I wanted to be able to do something for them.
"(The pitch) went outside, and I pulled it, which I tend to do a lot, but thank God I did. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had it. It felt great. I'll probably forever remember that."
Bishop also helped kick start a two-run rally in the fifth inning. After the two teams traded runs in the fourth inning, Mollie Kate Mitchell led off with a single. Bishop then followed with a single from a bunt. Ashleigh Niehaus then delivered a two-run RBI single to give Oak Grove its first lead of the day 3-1.
However, Northwest Rankin answered again by plating two more runs in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game again.
The Cougars scored its final run of the day with an RBI single in the top of the eighth inning after opening the inning with back-to-back singles. Yet Ryanne Hornsby prevented the big inning by inducing a ground ball and a flyout, which help set up Bishop's late heroics.
For Ryanne Hornsby, who pitched all 22 innings of the three-game series, sending Oak Grove back to South State was a special feeling.
"It's amazing," Ryanne Hornsby said. "We are a special team. We are all so close and connected. We knew if we played our hardest that we would make it. It is so surreal to see it actually happening."
Oak Grove will face Brandon for the South State title starting on Friday, May 7.
"We never quit today," Benjy Hornsby said. "Bailey's back came alive at the right time. Now we have a rally shoe. We'll see if it lasts, but I'm sure it will if they have their way."