MINFORD – Even though heavy rain fell less than two hours before the start of a Division III, Unioto II Sectional Championship matchup between Minford and Chesapeake on Friday evening, the rain couldn’t slow the Lady Falcons’ bats, as Minford mercy-ruled the Lady Panthers, 13-1, in five innings, to capture the sectional crown and advance to the Southeast District Tournament next week to do battle with New Lexington.
The vast majority of that damage came in a massive 12-run second inning for Minford, who sent 17 batters to the plate in the inning and scored 12 runs while pounding out 12 hits. Every member of the team reached base, five players scored multiple times, and Hannah Thacker, along with Emily Shoemaker, collected a pair of hits that drove in runs during the inning.
“We have been working hard all week long,” Minford head coach Preston Messer said. “We worked hard, especially on the hitting side of the coin, and it paid off tonight. It’s a great problem to have when everybody on your roster has the skill to reach base and drive in runs.
Madison Sifford led off the inning by reaching base when a called third strike skipped away from Chesapeake catcher Katy Spears. The next two batters, Hannah Tolle and Thacker, each singled, with Thacker’s single driving in Sifford. After Melanie Fuhrmann was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Shoemaker crushed a grand slam homerun over the left field fence to put Minford up 5-0.
”Emily’s grand slam gave us a spark,” Messer said. “We were struggling a little bit at the plate. All year long, we’ve had a kid in our lineup who has hit a big shot or a nice base hit and sparked our team.”
However, Minford wasn’t done in the second inning. Mary Pica scored on an Ariel Kingery double, and Zoe Doll, who doubled earlier in the inning, scored on a RBI single by Sifford. Tolle tripled in Sifford and Thacker picked up her second RBI of the frame with RBI single. Shoemaker then added her fifth RBI of the inning by scoring Thacker, and Mary Pica knocked in the final run in the outburst by plating Fuhrmann — who was hit by a pitch — and Shoemaker.
Kingery, however, was set on not being outdone by the offensive explosion. The senior went the full five innings, struck out seven while walking only one for a 7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and allowed just two hits in the victory.
“My curveball was working pretty good tonight,” Kingery said. “I just put it in there and let my defense do the work.”
“Ariel (Kingery) is a senior,” Messer said. “We’ve been telling her all year long, ‘Seniors play like seniors. Be a leader, like you are.’ She wanted the ball tonight, we gave it to her. She’s one of our seniors. She said she wanted it, so we gave her the ball and she did an excellent job.”
Messer also praised his assistant coaches Art Doll and Brittany Saunders. “I don’t even mess with the pitch calls. Those two have got it down,” Messer said.
With the victory, Minford will advance to the Division III, Unioto II District Semifinals, where the Lady Falcons will play New Lexington on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Unioto High School.