ELIDA – Somebody was going to be going into uncharted territory when Lima Central Catholic and Allen East met Monday night at Dorothy Edwards Field in Elida for the District III softball Sectional championship.
In the end, LCC scored two sixth inning runs and then held on to grab a 3-2 win and a trip to the Bath district.
Both starting pitchers – Meredith Shepherd for the T-Birds and Aubren Davis for Allen East – were on top of their game. Toss in some sterling defense and the game was in doubt to the final out.
The Mustangs scored in the top of the second on a single off the bat of second baseman Madison Schantz and a two out RBI double from first baseman Kennedy Rex.
LCC tied the game in the bottom of the third inning without the benefit of a hit. Meredith Niese, who had an outstanding defensive game at third base, walked with one out. She stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Niese finally came around to score the tying run on a wild pitch.
The Mustangs regained the lead when Davis led off the fifth inning and came around to score on a double by designated hitter Taylor Richardson.
LCC grabbed the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth when freshman center fielder Lexi Moore walked and Niese and Shepherd delivered two-out doubles that gave the T-Birds the 3-2 lead.
Allen East, bowing out at 15-9, refused to go quietly. They loaded the bases in the sixth before Shepherd was able to induce an infield pop-out to end the inning.
In the seventh, third baseman Audrey Rodriguez led off with a deep fly to center that Moore chased down and made an over the shoulder grab to rob the Mustangs of a potential extra base hit. Allen East would get two runners on with two outs before Shepherd induced an infield fly to end the game.
“They are a real good team and we won it on defense; Niese was strong at third and Moore made a sensational catch.” LCC coach Kevin Wilkerson said. “Our girls stepped up and it’s a blessing to have Shepherd, she believes in her defense and mixes her pitches so well.”
Allen East coach Bill Mattevi knew it was one of those games that neither team deserved to lose.
“We hit the ball hard and they made the plays,” Mattevi said. “Shepherd hit her spots and threw a great game. These kids have turned our program around; we were 5-16 two years ago and 1o-15 last year before going 15-9 this year.”
Shepherd improved her record to 9-4 on the mound for the T-Birds this year.
“I’m pretty excited, we haven’t been to the district in a while,” she said. “We were excited for the opportunity and ready to go; getting the lead relaxed us, and then Lexi (Moore) made that amazing catch, she saved us.”
The T-Birds, who improved to 11-6, earned the right to advance to the Bath District, where they will meet an opponent to be determined, on May 21 at 5 pm.