By BRIAN LESTER
ELIDA — In a game where big hits were few and far between, Kristin Bostelman delivered a decisive one to save Patrick Henry’s season.
At the plate with two outs in the sixth inning, a runner on and the Patriots trailing by a run to Van Buren in a tightly played tournament game, Bostelman rocked a pitch over the wall in the center field.
The two-run homer put Patrick Henry in front for good and served as the exclamation point on a 3-2 victory over the Black Knights in a Division IV district final Friday afternoon at Dorothy Edwards Field.
Bostelman, mobbed by teammates in the dugout after crossing home plate, knew she needed to rise to the occasion in a pressure-packed moment with the Patriots down 2-1. Her third homer of the season was more than enough to get the job done. It was her only hit of the game.
“We were struggling at the beginning of the game, but I was hoping for a big hit because we were in a tough situation,” Bostelman said. “We had a runner on. I knew I needed to do something. I was glad I was able to pull through.”
The Patriots (20-3) are headed to the regional tournament for the first time since 2008.
“We found a way to dig ourselves out of a hole,” Patrick Henry head coach Mike Meyer said. “I told the girls I wanted another bus ride. I get one. I’m happy for our team, especially to the seniors. I give credit to them and my coaching staff. They made this happen.”
The Black Knights (15-13) tried to rally. They had a glimmer of hope when Erin Neall slapped a two-out hit through the infield. But hope faded away when the ball Oliva Sattler hit into the air was caught for the third and final out.
Van Buren, 5-10 at one point before finishing strong to make its first trip to the district final in Stacy Sharp’s nine seasons as head coach, finished with six hits.
Sharp said she was proud of her team’s effort despite coming up short of a trip to the regional tournament.
“We always talk about winning the inning, and basically, they won one more inning than we did,” Sharp said. “It was a tough game to lose. Our girls played hard. We couldn’t have asked them to do anything else. We had a heck of a run this year. We just came up a little short.”
Patrick Henry only managed four hits, but two were home runs.
After going down in order in the first three innings, the Patriots were able to tie the game at 1-1 when Natalie Herder, a freshman, drilled the first pitch she saw over the fence in left field.
It was Herder’s fifth homer of the season, a new school record.
“We weren’t anywhere close to getting hits in the first few innings,” Meyer said. “(Natalie) comes up and gets a line drive home run. It was a big hit for us.”
Senior Madeline Hogrefe drilled a hit past third base with one out in the sixth. Larkin Hollaway came on to pinch run and stole second base. Moments later, Bostelman delivered the clutch home run.
“I was confident we could pull through,” Bostelman said. “It’s exciting. The seniors were talking about how we wanted to get to regionals. We didn’t want our season to be done.”
It wasn’t looking good for Patrick Henry early on. Van Buren pitcher Nichole Miller was sharp, striking out five batters in the first three innings, including two in the second and two in the third.
The Black Knights also had the lead as Sattler ripped a double to bring Miller across the plate for a 1-0 lead.
The lead would hold until Herder crushed her homer in the fourth to tie the score at 1-1.
Van Buren responded in the fifth. Abbey Phillips came through with a base hit with one out, and with two outs, Neall knocked a hit into right to drive in a run and put the Black Knights in front 2-1.
The Patriots, though, were able to take control in the sixth and the Black Knights managed only one more hit the rest of the way. Miller went the distance and finished with eight strikeouts.
“Nichole did a good job of moving the ball around,” Sharp said. “Patrick Henry has exceptional hitters. I was a little surprised they weren’t hitting the ball as well early. They just got a hold of a couple and scored runs.”
Alison Imbrock pitched for the Patriots and handled things well despite pitching for the first time in nearly a month. She struck out three in the complete-game win.
“I’m proud of Alison. She hasn’t pitched in three weeks because of a bone bruise,” Meyer said. “She struggled a little bit, but did a good job of keeping them off balance.”
The Patriots now turn their attention to the regional tournament as they continue their quest to win a state title.
Meyer said Friday’s win serves as a confidence boost for the team.
“This was a huge step for us,” Meyer said. “We want to get to the top of the ladder. We have four steps to go.”
Bostelman is confident the Patriots can get it done.
“Honestly, I don’t think many people expected us to do much this year,” Bostelman said. “I’m glad we pulled through again. It’s a great feeling and we want to be able to continue to win.”
Van Buren 100 010 0 — 2 6 0
Patrick Henry 000 102 x — 3 4 0
WP — Imbrock (12-0). LP — Miller (12-1). top hitters: (VB) Sattler 2B, RBI; Neall 2B, 1B, RBI; Miller 2-1B. (PH) Herder HR; Bostelman HR, 2 RBI; Nye 1B; Hogrefe 1B.
records: Patrick Henry 20-3, Van Buren 15-13.
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