MINFORD – Despite the late start after a scheduled 5:00 p.m. first pitch due to bus issues for their opponent, Zane Trace, the Minford Falcons were locked in and focused for their Division III sectional final softball matchup against the Pioneers.
A year after falling short of reaching the district tournament stage with a 3-2 sectional final loss to Eastern, Minford was determined to not let that same result happen in back to back seasons. With Friday’s 11-1 win over the Pioneers in Muletown, Minford is sectional champs for the first time since 2017.
“We never get too rattled in the games,” said Minford head coach Art Doll following the Falcons sectional final win over Zane Trace. “We played solid defense, they don’t let things get to them. That’s something we’ve been working on all year. They’re getting more picky at the plate and if the wind wasn’t so strong, we would have had more hits than what we had. But it was a good win for us.”
One of the major things that stands out when watching the Falcons play is just how versatile their entire roster is in the field coupled with how well each of their hitters, one through nine in the lineup, can hit the ball.
By game’s end after six innings, each player in the Minford lineup finished with at least a hit, not to mention the fact that six Falcons finished with at least two hits in their win. In total, the Falcons produced eleven runs on sixteen hits against a Zane Trace team who was in the middle of the pack in a very competitive SVC race.
The largest of those sixteen hits came off the bat of junior Hannah Tolle who also took over on the mound for senior Madi Sifford in the mid stages of Friday’s win. With one runner on base and with one swing of the bat, Tolle sent a bomb over two fences in the Minford outfield to give her team a 5-1 lead after five innings. By happenstance, Tolle’s home run actually made hard contact with a passing car as it cleared both fences in the bottom of the fifth.
Needing six more outs or six more runs in the final two innings of play to advance to the district tournament for the first time since 2017, Minford stepped on the gas and pushed forward only as they could.
After starting Friday’s game on the mound and transitioning to first base mid-game, Minford senior Madi Sifford made one of the most incredible plays you’ll ever see after the Pioneers started the inning with runners on first and second and no outs. Sifford fielded a ball shot back to her in the air at first base off a Zane Trace bat, stepped on first base to get the force out and immediately threw the ball to second base for the tag out: the routine three unassisted to four triple play.
An offensive explosion for Minford’s bats in the final half inning led to six one out runs and a final score after six innings of play.
Senior Emily Shoemaker finished 3/3 with 2RBI and a run scored in Minford’s win, Tolle finished 2/3 with 3RBI, and junior Brittani Wolfenbarker finished 2/4 with 2RBI.
Friday’s win clinches the Falcons spot in the Division III district semifinals on May 16th at Unioto High School at 4:30 p.m. against an all too common opponent: Wheelersburg.
During their two regular season battles, Wheelersburg held a +4 run differential over Minford winning both head to head matchups by scores of 2-1 at Minford and 6-3 at Wheelersburg.
For Doll and his group of Falcons heading into Thursday’s chance at redemption, their main focus will be what it has been all season: taking things one game at a time.
“We’ll be working hard. I’m ready, and we’re ready for this. You’ve got to get through them all, anyway, might as well knock them off one at a time. It should be another good one.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved