BATH TOWNSHIP — It was like watching two heavyweight boxers attempting to land the one big shot that would send their opponent to the canvas for the count.
In Saturday’s Division II sectional semifinal softball game at Bath between Wapakoneta and Shawnee, both teams exchanged blows for seven innings, before sending the contest into extra innings.
In the eighth, Wapakoneta connected for the knockout punch, scoring two runs on two hits to slip out with a hard-fought 8-6 victory over Shawnee.
With the win, Wapakoneta (16-8) will advance to Wednesday’s sectional final game against Monday’s winner of the Celina/St. Marys sectional semifinal. Wednesday’s sectional final starts at 5 p.m. at Bath.
Wapakoneta redeemed itself on Saturday for a tough 8-7 loss it suffered to Shawnee in the regular-season matchup on April 9. In that game, Shawnee battled back from a 7-2 deficit to record the victory.
In Saturday’s sectional semifinal, Wapakoneta jumped on Shawnee (17-6) quickly and then found ways to stave off the Indians down the stretch.
“We’ve been a base-hitting team all year. Our girls really see the ball well and hit the ball well,” Wapakoneta coach Bill Sammons said. “Shawnee’s a great team and we got on them early, and it was nice to feel the momentum on our side.
“Then all of sudden with one swing, they tie it up. But, all credit to them. It was two evenly-matched teams going at it. We just so happened to get the base hits, back-to-back, especially in that last inning.”
The Redskins also played solid defense. For the game, Wapakoneta did not commit an error. Probably the best play of the game for the Redskins came in the eighth when Shawnee’s Kierstan Courtney hit a shot to left field and Elizabeth Martin made a spectacular catch to save an extra-base hit.
“That was huge, because of the momentum,” Sammons said. “That’s a momentum swing and Shawnee’s a momentum type of team.”
Both teams’ starting pitchers went the distance. Renee Eley-Lovett worked all eight innings for Wapakoneta. Eley-Lovett struck out seven and walked one. She threw 114 pitches.
For Shawnee, Kaylyn Shick struck out four and walked two. She threw 142 pitches.
Both teams hit the ball well. Wapakoneta pounded 12 base hits, while Shawnee collected nine.
Each time Shawnee tied the game, Wapakoneta responded.
In the first inning, Wapakoneta scored three runs on three hits. Carli Sammons (2 for 5) had a double and Ashlie Cox had an RBI single to lead the Redskins. Shawnee committed three errors in the first frame.
Shawnee responded in its half of the first, scoring three runs on two hits. Brittany Lauck had a triple and Tori Runneals got on with a walk. Courtney then ripped a 2-2 offering from Eley-Lovett over the left-field fence for a three-run home run to tie the game up.
In the fifth, Wapakoneta reclaimed the lead when Stacy Miller hit a bloop single to drive in Sammons, who led off with a single.
Wapakoneta extended its lead to 6-3 in the seventh. The Redskins collected four hits in the inning.
But, Shawnee wasn’t done.
The Indians rallied in the bottom of the seventh, scoring three runs on four hits. Rebekah Rader and Lauck each had doubles. Lauck’s double scored two, while Runneals added an RBI single.
In the eighth, Kristi Bailey had an RBI single and Cox smacked a double that plated the final run for the Redskins.
For the game, Shawnee committed seven errors.
“We made mistakes out there and they cost us,” Shawnee co-head coach Eric Truxal said. “We got out slow and had to keep battling back. And it’s hard to keep battling back like that.”
Added Shawnee co-head coach John Young, “Kay (Shick) pitched a good game. But, when you enter tournament play, you’re going to face some good hitting teams.”
Van Wert 20, Elida 9
In Saturday’s first sectional semifinal at Bath, Van Wert jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first inning and led the rest of the way. With the victory, Van Wert (11-10) will face Bath at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a sectional final.
Van Wert pounded 16 hits off Elida’s pitching. Elida recorded seven hits against Van Wert.
Van Wert’s Brittany Bigham was on a tear. The senior first baseman hit two home runs in the first inning, as the Cougars sent 13 batters to the plate. For the day, Bigham was 3 for 5 and had seven RBIs. She now has seven home runs on the season.
There was another rarity that happened on Saturday.
Both starting pitchers were pulled out of the game and then re-entered later to finish.
Van Wert’s Jessica Klausing was pulled in the first inning with two outs. Brooke Brown came in to relieve Klausing.
Then, Klausing returned to the pitching circled in the second inning to finish the game. For the game, Klausing was tabbed for seven runs, while striking out two and walking two.
Aryanna Brown started in the circle for Elida (9-10). She was pulled just after 1/3 of an inning. Michaela Black pitched 2 2/3 innings before Brown returned to pitch in the fourth.
“We finally woke our bats up and hit the ball well, like we’re capable of doing, especially Britt (Bigham). She’s capable of hitting the ball like that,” Van Wert coach Mike McClure said. “The defense was pretty shaky. And both of our pitchers struggled to find the plate, which was kind of unusual for them.”
Van Wert’s Hannah Hubert went 4 for 5 at the plate. Emily Bair went 3 for 4 and had three RBIs. Melissa Roop and Saige Royer each had two hits for the Cougars.
For Elida, Sabrina Kline went 2 for 4.
“I’m glad that our team started hitting,” Bigham said. “I feel like I kind of started something when I did that (hit her first home run).”
Elida coach Mike Eilerman said his squad has played in spurts all season.
“That’s the way we’ve been this year. We will come out and play well sometimes, and other times we won’t. But, we didn’t quit. …We battled back,” he said.