COLUMBUS GROVE — This Spencerville team will always have a special place in Bearcats’ lore.
For the first time Spencerville is the Northwest Conference softball champion.
Spencerville won the NWC title outright Friday with a 7-2 victory over Columbus Grove.
Spencerville is 13-9 and ends its NWC year 7-1. Columbus Grove, which is still playing in the district tournament, is 15-4, 4-4 in the NWC.
Crestview finishes second in the NWC at 6-2, while Paulding is 5-2.
“They were happy they had a share, but that’s all they talked about for the last week was getting it outright and they did,” Spencerville coach Jeff Johnston said. “Grove’s a very good team. But when we’re on, we’re good.’’
Bearcats right-hander Julie Mulholland was in command the whole way, giving up six hits, two runs, both earned, in her seven innings of work.
She struck out 10 and walked three.
“It feels great,” the senior Mulholland said. “I’ve been wanting this for a long time. Last year we almost got it. It feels great to have a great defense behind me and to finally be pitching well. … We wanted to make history.’’
Mulholland threw 107 pitches, 67 for strikes.
The Bearcats entered the night with a share of the NWC title, but had the outright pennant on their minds.
“It’s a great feeling,” Spencerville shortstop Kara May said. “Even though we lost to Crestview, to come back and have a big win like this, it’s an amazing feeling. Having a share is not what we wanted, so we kept fighting and we got what we wanted.’’
Leading the offense for the Bearcats was May, who went 2 for 2 with two walks, a double, a home run and three RBI.
Spencerville leadoff hitter Bailey Swartz was 3 for 4 with an RBI.
The Bearcats scored three in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead. They tacked on three more in the fifth to make it 6-0.
It was 7-0, Spencerville, before Grove rallied for two runs in the sixth to get within 7-2.
May doubled to lead off the fourth. Jenna Henline singled. Krista Market’s RBI single to left gave the Bearcats a 1-0 lead.
Gracie Butorac’s RBI groundout to second gave Spencerville a 2-0 lead. Emily Zak reached on an error by the Grove second baseman, which scored Market to make it 3-0.
The Bearcats started the fifth with back-to-back singles by Swartz and Mulholland.
May hit a frozen-rope liner down the right field line. Grove right fielder Joy Stechschulte made a dive at the ball, but just missed it.
The ball rattled around the right-field corner and by the time it was retrieved and gotten back to the infield, May had a three-run, inside-the-park home run.
It marked her 10th home run of the year. That gave Spencerville a 6-0 lead.
“I thought she was going to catch it,” May said. “I was going to take anything I could get.’’
Mulholland gave up two in the sixth inning, but finished strong. She retired the Bulldogs 1-2-3 in the seventh, all on strikeouts to set off the NWC title celebration in front of the dugout.
“She throws hard and she’s a good pitcher,” Columbus Grove coach Travis Gallmeier said. “She kept us off balance and we weren’t able to put the bat on the ball early. We got a couple of hits, here and there. We just couldn’t string a bunch of them together.’’
Added Johnston, “That’s how Julie’s pitched all year. … And Kara May has hit the ball hard her entire career. She’s coming up on 200 hits and 25 home runs.’’
Teyah Sautter went the distance for Grove and gave up seven runs, six earned, on eight hits. She struck out four and walked three.
Spencerville dropped its Division III sectional game to Bluffton.
Columbus Grove will play Lincolnview in the Division IV district semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Elida.
“We’re OK. We’re still in the tournament,” Gallmeier said.