Softball: Continental gains spot in districts

COLUMBUS GROVE — The year was 2016.

That was the last time the Continental softball program made it to the district tournament.

Continental made history in Thursday’s Division IV sectional final game against Columbus Grove.

The Pirates jumped out early on the Bulldogs, scored four runs in the first inning, and pulled away for a 9-2 victory over Columbus Grove to end the drought.

With the win, No. 6 seed Continental (7-10) advances to the district tournament. Continental will face No. 2 seed Lincolnview (17-8) in a district semifinal Monday the 15th at Elida’s Dorothy Edwards Field with first pitch set for 6 p.m.

“I was the assistant coach (in 2016),” Continental head coach Leva Aguirre said with a grin. “That was the last year we made it. We made it to the district finals that year. I’m very proud of these girls. They’ve improved so much since last year. The future for Pirate softball is great.”

Thursday, Continental pounded 10 base hits off Columbus Grove pitcher Abby Stechschulte.

Stechschulte pitched all seven innings. She walked three batters and threw a total of 93 pitches.

Columbus Grove (9-11) also recorded 10 hits. However, seven Columbus Grove errors extended several rallies for the Pirates.

Gracie Homier pitched all seven innings for Continental. The freshman right-hander struck out seven and walked one. She threw 82 pitches in her complete-game effort.

“The last time we played this team, we had a lot of errors,” Aguirre said, “So, that was our main thing. We knew they were going to hit the ball. We wanted to make sure the ball stayed in front of us, so we wouldn’t give them extra base hits. … We basically did that until the last inning.

“Our pitcher (Homier) –this, her freshman year – broke the record for strikeouts in a season, tonight. So, we’re very proud of her, too. She came to play. … Everybody did. Everybody was hyped and ready to go.”

During the regular season, Columbus Grove defeated Continental in a slugfest, 23-18.

On Thursday, Continental got off to a strong start.

The Pirates scored four runs on four hits in the first inning, to pull out to a 4-0 lead.

“That’s a heck of a start,” Columbus Grove head coach Travis Gallmeier said about the first inning. “It’s not the kind of start that you want to give them. You never want to go down 4-0, right away.”

Continental scored a run in the top of the third to pull out to a 5-0 lead. The Bulldogs made two errors in the third.

In the top of the fifth, the Pirates added another run to make it 6-0. Two more costly errors helped Continental garner the additional run.

The Pirates added three more runs in the top of the seventh.

Alli Scott had a double that plated a run for Continental. Tori Searfoss started the inning with a double for the Pirates.

For the game, Scott, Homier and Raegen Clemens each had two hits for Continental. Kimberly Grant (1 for 4) had a triple for the Pirates.

Columbus Grove rallied in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two runs on three hits. Carlie Aguirre (1 for 3) led off the inning with a single. Abby Stechschulte (2 for 4) followed with an RBI double. Two batters later, Gwen Langhals (2 for 4) drove Stechschulte in with a single.

Along with Stechschulte and Langhals recording two hits, Izzy Ramos and Megan Bogart also had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs. One of Bogart’s hits was a triple.

For the game, Columbus Grove left seven runners on base. Continental stranded nine base runners.

“Last time (regular season game) they (Columbus Grove) hit the ball very well. We were ready for that, tonight,” Aguirre said. “We were able to hit the ball, and we came out strong right from the beginning. I think that definitely helped us, too.

“They (Columbus Grove) were able to get runners on base, but we were able to hold them. We were able to figure it out and come out with a win.”

Gallmeier added, “We just couldn’t string the hits together. Last time (regular season game) we put the ball in play. We hit the ball hard. I think we had four or five home runs against them.

“Now, they had some help (Thursday’s game). We had some errors. Tonight, they (Continental) played pretty clean in the field (one error).”