PORTSMOUTH — Three tickets into next week’s Division IV district softball tournaments were punched with rather ease on Thursday by Scioto County teams.
No. 1-seed Notre Dame, No. 2-seed Clay, and No. 4-seed South Webster all carried their play from the regular season into their first postseason game, each claiming a sectional championship on their home fields.
The Lady Titans, the Lady Panthers, and Lady Jeeps combined to outscore their sectional adversaries by a combined 39-1.
The home show doesn’t stop there for these softball powers, either. Each will host their respective district semifinal contests on Tuesday prior to next Saturday’s district finals at the University of Rio Grande.
Notre Dame 19, Whiteoak 0
Notre Dame’s 19-0 drumming of visiting Whiteoak continues a strong trend for the Lady Titans in sectional finals in the three major girls team sports.
And with the victory, ND (21-0) continues as one of the lone unbeaten D4 teams in the state of Ohio.
Scoring at-least four runs in every inning and a joint effort by freshman pitchers Gwen Sparks and Kyndall Ford of allowing no Lady Wildcat runners to reach base was more than enough to push ND to the district tourney for the third-straight season the spring sports season has been held.
Sparks earned the win by pitching four innings on 29 pitches and striking out five. Ford took over in relief in the fifth and struck out two.
The out-right SOC I champs saw their bats adjust well to the postseason as five different Lady Titans had a multi-RBI day in the five inning triumph.
Katie Strickland’s grand slam in the bottom of the fourth put ND ahead 19-0 and put an exclamation point on the victory. Strickland’s four RBI were a game-high as ND had three home runs in the home win.
Ford had three RBI on a hit and a walk, while Claire Dettwiller, Annie Dettwiller, and Madison Suter each had two RBI.
Ford and Dettwiller each homered in the win, doing so in the first and fourth innings, respectively.
“Playing tournament games is definitely a plus,” ND coach J.D. McKenzie said, afterwards. “There is no place like playing in a familiar setting. We played very well tonight obviously when your two pitchers combine for a perfect game and as a team you hit three home runs, its probably going to be a good evening. I thought we had great approaches at the plate tonight and we did a great job putting the ball in play and being aggressive on the base paths. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls focus coming into the game tonight and until the final out was recorded.”
Notre Dame will host No. 8-seed Belpre in Portsmouth on Tuesday, May 18 where they’ll be battling for a spot in the district final and for their second-straight district championship.
McKenzie says playing error free and taking advantage of early scoring opportunities will be important aspects of their run to stay unbeaten.
“Keys going forward will be playing error free clean softball. Another big key is going to be getting runners on base with less than two outs so we can have some freedom to different things to move runners around,” McKenzie said. “Feel pretty confident we are going to great pitching from our two young guns and that will keep us in every game.”
Clay 12, Trimble 0
While it wasn’t exactly over before it started, the No. 2-seed Clay Lady Panthers put their work in early and put out visiting Trimble with an eight-run first inning haymaker.
The 12-0 result made for the program’s 40th sectional championship in 44 seasons, including last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19.
The Lady Panthers were upset in the sectional round two years ago as a district favorite, but this year’s group was determined not to let that happen.
“I’m happy that the seniors were able to play their last season game and the first two tournament games at home, especially since they lost a whole season last year,” Clay coach Jason Gearhart said, afterwards. “It’s an advantage to play home games. The girls feel more comfortable at their own field and you have more support at home. The more support you can get, the better.”
Clay junior pitcher Preslee Lutz allowed just one hit, walked out none, and struck out eight as part of her winning effort on the mound.
Senior Megan Bazler had a perfect day at the plate, going 4-of-4 with two doubles and a game-best two RBI.
McKenzie Loper and Kailey Ware each had two hits apiece for multi-hit days while combining to score five runs.
Senior Shaley Munion had a first inning home run with three RBI to help push the Lady Panthers out in front early.
Clay’s defense committed just one error also, something that Gearhart says has been an emphasis in their preparation for the postseason.
“The win tonight was an all around group effort,” Gearhart said. “Preslee was on her A- game tonight. She had good control over all of her pitches. The girls are hitting great. The four seniors had an awesome night at the plate. The thing I’m happiest about is is that we only had one error. Errors have cost us games, so we have been working hard on our defense.”
The No. 2-seed Lady Panthers have earned their chance in next week’s Division IV district tournament with a semifinal against No. 7-seed Peebles.
The winner at that stage will face the winner of Symmes Valley and Waterford in Saturday’s district final.
“To come away with a district championship, we will have to play a couple of great defensive games,” Gearhart said. “Defense has gotten us into a little trouble this year. I think if they all play as well as I know they can, then we will be able to have a great run in the tournament.”
South Webster 8, Miller 1
The South Webster Lady Jeeps collected 13 hits as a team and took an early advantage in their sectional championship versus Miller, advancing to the Division IV district semifinals with an 8-1 win.
SW’s 7-8-9 hitters were particularly impactful in their lineup, going a combined 7-of-10 against Miller starting pitcher Agriesti.
Rylee McGraw went 3-of-4 with two runs scored and an RBI while Lexi Smith and Rease Hall each went 2-of-3 with two RBI apiece.
Gwen Messer and Skylar Zimmeman both went 2-of-4 at the plate as five different Lady Jeeps had multi-hit days.
“It’s always good to be able to begin tournament play at your own field,” SW coach Andy Messer said, afterwards. “It usually brings in a few more fans and that helps also. Overall I felt our performance tonight was solid. From the top of the lineup to the bottom we hit the ball well.”
Messer earned the win on the mound, pitching 98 tosses and striking out eight in a complete game effort.
Agresti drove in Miller’s only run in the third inning.
The No. 4 seed Lady Jeeps will host Manchester on Tuesday in a D4 district semifinal with a berth in the district final on the line.
A win in their final home game of the 2021 season would pit them against the winner of No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 8 Belpre on Saturday at the University of Rio Grande.
Messer says his team is taking their postseason run one game at a time and are ready for the challenge.
Of course, if SW and ND both advance, that would make for a rematch of their meeting in a district semifinal two years ago in this year’s district final. The two schools also faced one another in this year’s Division IV district volleyball final at Southeastern HS in the fall.”
“We talked after the game tonight and know that every game is going to continue to get tougher,” Messer said. “We’re not going to look past any game and are excited to advance to district to play our next one.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved