PICKERINGTON — There was a quiet confidence surrounding the Jonathan Alder High School softball team long before the Division II Central District tournament began.
The Lady Pioneers (20-4) wanted another shot at Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference rival River Valley and weren’t afraid to talk about it openly. The co-champion Vikings defeated Alder twice during the regular season, won a share of the conference title and earned the district tournament’s No. 2 seed. But despite the two losses, a 7-6 decision and a 10-4 setback both coming back in April, Alder was confident it would win if it got another chance.
That opportunity came Saturday, May 20, when the two teams met in a Division II Central District championship game at Pickerington Central and the Lady Pioneers were up for the challenge. Alder erupted for eight runs in the top of the third inning and cruised to an 11-1 run-rule victory, giving the school it’s first district crown since 2014.
“This was our third time seeing that pitcher,” JAHS coach Dave McGrew said. “We felt we should have hit her better the previous two. We hit the ball hard in the first two innings and then really broke it open.”
Alder was led by its three seniors Kayla Fredendall (2 for 4), Chloe Grove (3 for 4) and Haley Wagner (3 for 4) which went a combined 8 for 12 in the game.
“It was truly a total team effort,” McGrew said. “Our seniors had a great day, but some of the other kids really have stepped up and played well for us. Our top kids have been so consistent all season long, and now we’re getting big hits and key plays from the bottom half of our lineup. That’s been huge.”
Alder has also gotten tremendous production from a collection of freshmen, including Jillian Jakse, who broke the school record for RBI in a season after going 3 for 3 and driving in three runs on Saturday. Her current total for RBI on the season stands at 42. The previous mark was 41.
Freshman Caitlin Craig had a key pinch-hit and Angela Brandel was for 3 with a pair of RBI.
For the game the Lady Pioneers were 16 of 30 at the plate, while junior pitcher Katelyn Perkins pitched five innings, allowing one run on five hits.
With the win Alder advances to a D-II regional semifinal where it will face Springfield Shawnee Wednesday, May 24, at 5 p.m. at Mason High School near Cincinnati. The other semifinal match-up will have Clinton-Massie squaring off with Greenville, also Wednesday. The D-II regional final is scheduled for Saturday, May 27, at noon back at Mason High School.
“We’re getting the scouting report together right now for Shawnee,” McGrew said Monday morning. “I said it before, I think this team could get to the state tournament, just as it could have lost starting last week against Granville (district semifinal). But this group has gotten so much better, I really like our chances this week.”
Alder last won a district crown in 2014. That Pioneers squad defeated Shawnee in the regional final en route to finishing as the state runner-up. The Lady Pioneers fell the last two seasons in the district final.
“I’ve been thinking about this team and its inexperience and lack of depth, but things just don’t phase them,” the coach said. “It’s almost as if they’ve grabbed their lunch pail and gone to work. When we win they celebrate but don’t get too high and when we lose they just let it go. It’s different than any team I’ve had before.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.