Cardington-Lincoln landed a clean shot to the chin of the West Jefferson High School softball team in the top of the first inning of their Division III Central District semifinal on Monday, May 19, at Pickerington Central.
The Pirates (17-10) scored three runs off of Roughriders starter Annie Haenszel and were beaming with confidence. But in the home half of the first West Jeff came out swinging, literally, and answered with a knockout punch.
West Jefferson hit three home runs in the home half of the first, scored six runs in the frame and never looked back in claiming a 13-6 victory, propelling it to its second consecutive district championship game.
West Jeff coach Jim Stevens had a look of satisfaction on his face following the win and was pleased with how his team answered in such an emphatic fashion.
“There’s really no other way to explain it than that’s how a good team responds,” Stevens said. “This is a good team and when something like that happens they know they need to do. We came back with what three home runs? Yea I think that’s a pretty good response.”
The big inning started with who else? The emotional leader of the Roughriders catcher Taylor Bowman. The junior stepped to the plate and hit the first pitch she saw over the fence in left-centerfield. The massive blast seemed to instantly swing the game in favor of West Jeff, even though the Roughriders still trailed 3-1.
“The one thing I can say about this team is that they know that hitting is contagious and this team knows that if they can get it started, they live off of that. Every girl in the lineup sees what the girl in front of her has done and tries to top it.”
Bowman’s bomb was followed by a double to the gap in left by Madison Gatley. Taylor Kauser followed with an RBI single and Emily Stevenson then crushed a homer to left, her eighth on the season. Kennedy Campbell was next to bat and she hit a scorching liner that cleared the fence in left. Haenszel followed with a double and after a pair of outs Andrea Fulton collected an RBI double of her own to make it 6-3.
With the loud response, West Jeff had settled its nerves and played from ahead — something it’s done most of the season.
“Going up (to the plate) I wasn’t trying to go yard on it,” Bowman said. “I was trying to get a base hit and get a rally going. I knew we had to stay focused and hit the ball. Hitting is contagious and when we start getting hits everyone feeds off of it. If you hit it well everyone sees it and wants to do the same.”
Haenszel settled down after the shaky start to keep the Pirates off the score board in the second, third and fourth innings. In the home half of the fourth Fulton and Bowman both drew walks, Gatley sacrificed them to second and third and Kauser delivered a two-run double to make it 8-3. Another run in the fifth, an RBI single by Josie Hume made it 9-3.
Sitting on a cushy lead, Haenszel was able to let Cardington-Lincoln put the ball in play and it scored a pair of runs in the sixth. The Roughriders (18-5) plated four more runs in the home portion of the sixth with Kauser (3 for 4, 4 RBI) delivering an RBI single and Stevenson (2 for 4, 4 RBI) coming through with an RBI double. Josie Hume collected and RBI single to finish off the scoring for West Jeff.
“Taylor Kauser is one of those girls that when she comes to the plate I’m not nervous because I know she’s going to put the ball in play,” Stevens said. “She just seems to have a knack for moving the runners and coming up with big hits.”
Second-seeded West Jeff will play No. 3 North Union in a D-III district championship game at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 24, back at Pickerington Central. The two teams played earlier this season with the Wildcats earning a 13-3 victory.
“We look forward to playing them again,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of respect for them and they have a lot of respect for our program. We know its going to be a tough game.”
Jonathan Alder 6,
All season long the Pioneers (24-1) have been able to find a way to have at least one big inning.
In a D-II district semifinal on Monday, May 19 against Heath at Pickerington North, the big number didn’t come until the bottom of the sixth inning.
Alder trailed 4-2 heading into the home half of the sixth, but scored four runs and held on for dear life in the seventh inning to advance to the district championship game. The Pioneers will meet Granville at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 25, at Pickerington Central.
The Pioneers made life more difficult on itself by falling behind early and then failing to come up with big hits for the better part of the game. Coach Dave McGrew said his team was a lot tighter than usual.
“We came out pretty tight,” he said. “We gave up three runs in the first inning and were down 4-1. Not having the experience of playing in that situation before we struggled a bit. But we’ve had a big inning in just about every game we’ve played. We started to string things together there in the sixth and made it happen.”
Tori Walker and Brooke Foster both delivered two-run doubles in the sixth inning and deciding inning. Heath loaded the bases in the seventh inning but Mady Watson was able to get out of the jam and send her team to the district final.
“We found a way to get it done, that’s all that matters,” McGrew said.
Columbus Academy 7,
West Jefferson 2
It was the third time this season the two members of the Mid-State League Ohio Division met, but this was the most important and the Roughriders (16-9) came out on the wrong end in a D-III district semifinal played at St. Francis DeSales on Monday, May 19.
The top-seeded Vikings won the rubber match between the schools and advanced to a district championship game that will be played on Wednesday, May 22.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.