SPENCERVILLE — With it being senior night and an opportunity to clinch the Northwest Conference softball title outright, Spencerville was hoping to have a big night of celebrating. However, Crestview, much like it did in basketball when it prevented Spencerville from garnering its first conference basketball title, dashed the hopes of the Bearcats after the Knights edged the Bearcats, 2-1, in an exciting pitchers’ duel Thursday night.
Spencerville, which can still garner an outright title Wednesday when the Bearcats face Columbus Grove, fall to 6-1 in the conference and 10-8 overall. The win keeps Crestview’s hopes alive of sharing the title after improving to 5-2 in the NWC and 12-7 for the season.
Carl Etzler, who watched his team open the NWC with two losses, said it was big win for his team and praised his squad for gutting out the victory.
“We knew coming in here with it being senior night and the weather that we would have to battle a few things and I couldn’t have been any prouder of these girls,” Etzler said. “Julie Mulholland just owned us those first five innings and we couldn’t get anything going and Victoria (Lichtensteiger) matched her pitch for pitch. It was one heck of a pitchers’ duel and both girls deserved to win.”
Spencerville head coach Joe Johnston said it was a heartbreaking loss but remains optimistic his team can still grab the NWC title outright.
“It was a good ball game,” Johnson said. “Both sides played hard. We have one more shot to win it outright. We are not done.”
For five innings Spencerville’s Mullholland silenced the Knights’ bats, holding them to three hits while striking out eight. But in the sixth, the senior standout, after recording an out, walked the next three batters. Crestview catcher Hanna Binnion, who had struck out in her two previous plate appearances, then delivered a single over the drawn-in infield to bring home two runs and give the Knights the 2-1 advantage.
“We had the one little inning,” Johnston said. “I pulled everyone in to go to the plate and they blooped it over our heads. I got to take that one. It is on me.”
Knight hurler Victoria Lichtensteiger, who gave up a run in the first when Kara May tripled followed by a single from Jenna Heinline, was solid the remaining six innings.
Despite Spencerville getting two hits in the sixth, Lichtensteiger worked her way out of trouble and in the seventh set the Bearcats down in order.
For the game Lichtensteiger scattered five hits while striking out 10 and walking none.
“Since the weather has broken she has really picked up her game,” Etzler said. She is quiet but she is a competitor and she battles.”
Etzler praised Lichtensteiger’s efforts but also praised the defense behind her.
“The one thing we talked about coming into the game is that we could not make an error against this team and they would make us pay,” Etzler said.”Defensively we had some tremendous catches in center field. Haley Speith ran down two balls that when they left the bat in this wind I thought they were down and she did a tremendous job”
Etzler added that second baseman Bailey Gregory, making her first varsity start, successfully handled her chances.
For Spencerville, Mullholland gave up four hits while striking out 10 and walking four.