By MICHAEL BURWELL
KENTON — Line drive after line drive, home run after home run, New Riegel crushed the ball in its Division IV district softball final against Carey on Friday.
The Blue Jackets wasted no time, getting most of their hits early in the count against Carey pitcher Ali Rymer, as they smacked 14 hits, including three home runs, in an 8-2 win over their Midland Athletic League rival.
New Riegel (25-4) will face Wayne Trace (19-7), a 5-2 winner over Hicksville, in the regional semifinals on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Findlay’s Marathon Diamonds.
Carey, which was playing in its first district final in the school’s history, finishes 17-7.
A four-run third inning for the Blue Jackets blew the game open.
Morgan Noftz, who ripped a double to right-center field on the first pitch of her first at bat, crushed a solo home run to center field on the first pitch of her second at bat to give New Riegel a 2-0 lead.
Taylor Kirian just missed a home run and settled for a double to right-center field. Taylor Arbogast torched a two-run, line-drive home run to left field to make it 4-0.
Back-to-back singles from Kara Scherger and Lauren Zoeller added another run to make it 5-0. The first six batters for the Blue Jackets reached base safely in the inning, and with nearly every player recording a hit, their confidence at the plate was high.
“I think it shows all of us that we can hit this girl,” Kirian said. “She’s not doing anything that anyone else has done, so it gives all the rest of us confidence to see other people hitting her.”
That confidence showed for Kirian in the bottom of the sixth inning. The 5-foot-8 senior, who is heading to the University of Akron to play softball, roped a three-run home run to straightaway center field, driving in Lauren Ladd and Noftz, to give New Riegel an 8-2 lead.
“She’s (Rymer) a good pitcher, but we hit her hard the last time we played her, and that’s what we expected to do again,” New Riegel head coach Jamie Lininger said. “Just go up there and play our game and we’re going to come out here with a win.”
Although the Blue Jackets took a 5-0 lead through three innings, Carey came right back with two runs in the top of the fourth off of Kirian. Taylor Fletcher and Hannah Draper hit back-to-back singles up the middle, and Dani Berardinelli-Clark ripped an RBI single to center field on the sixth pitch of the at bat to put Carey on the board.
“The girls are fighters,” Carey head coach Teresa Jacoby said. “We’ve played coming back before. They weren’t ready to give up and they just kept swinging away.”
A bloop RBI single to right field from Rymer on the next pitch cut Carey’s deficit to 5-2, but Haley Hoepf hit a pop up to catcher Arbogast, and Elyssa Theis made a diving catch in left field to end the inning.
“I always rely on my defense no matter what I do, so I think it’s just if they get a few runners on, I just think ‘let’s get a ground ball, get an out here, get an out there and hopefully they don’t score too many,'” Kirian said.
After a four-pitch inning for Rymer in the bottom of the fourth, in which she forced two deep flyouts and a lineout from Noftz, Kirian and Arbogast, respectively, Carey had a chance to score in the fifth.
Makenzie Wentling hit a one-out bloop single to right field and advanced to second base on a passed ball. Abby Hall walked on five pitches to put runners on first and second, but two more pop ups ended the inning.
“She moved the ball around well,” Lininger said of Kirian. “They didn’t really hit the ball, they had a couple nice shots right up the middle but they had a lot of bloops too and I thought that kind of kept them off balanced.”
Kirian (24-4) pitched all six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits. She had a strikeout and a walk while throwing 86 pitches. Rymer (15-5) had one strikeout in her seven innings of work.
Arbogast, who had an RBI double in the first inning, drove in three runs for the game, as did Kirian.
Carey 000 200 0 — 2 6 0
New Riegel 104 003 x — 8 14 0
WP — Kirian (24-4). LP — Rymer (15-5). top hitters: (Car) Draper 2-1B; Berardinelli-Clark & Rymer 1B, RBI. (NR) Noftz HR, 2B, 1B; Kirian & Arbogast HR, 2B, 3 RBI; Scherger 2B, 2-1B; Ladd 2-1B.
records: Carey 17-7, New Riegel 25-4.
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