By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
MAUMEE — Elmwood coach Matt Hoiles learned something about his team in Saturday’s Division III district championship game at Rolf Park.
“I challenged them,” he said. “I said, ‘I think that it’s going to be a high-scoring game, but can we win a 1-0 game? Can we? You know, the Elmwood of old won a lot of 1-0 games. Can we do it?’
“We proved today that we could.”
Indeed, Olivia Myers’ single to right field immediately followed Miranda Benschoter’s leadoff triple in the top of the sixth inning, and the resulting run held up for the Royals in a 1-0 decision over third-ranked Archbold.
The victory sends Elmwood (22-3) into Wednesday’s 5 p.m. regional semifinal against New London (20-5) at Fostoria High School. The Blue Streaks bowed out at 26-2.
Totals of one run and seven hits between two teams that are normally very potent offensively defied the expectations of both coaches as they entered the contest.
“To have a 1-0 game between Elmwood and Archbold? Who would have thought one run would win that game?” Hoiles said. “I’ve had a 1-0 game go three hours and 21 innings before (an Elmwood win over Lakota in 2001). I imagined that. Not Elmwood-Archbold. Not 1-0. Those are two very good hitting teams and to go 1-0, that’s two good pitching coaches working with two great pitchers who were hitting their spots. That’s what it boiled down to.”
Blue Streaks coach Joe Frank, whose team beat Elmwood 4-2 during the regular season, said he expected Saturday’s game to end up with a score of more like 7-6.
“Obviously, the two teams’ defenses and pitchers had another thought in mind,” he said. “I would have never guessed (a 1-0 result). When you come in with a .450 team batting average and four runs is the fewest you’ve scored all year, you don’t plan on getting shut out. But when you play 27, 28 games, sometimes that happens. That happened today. Unfortunately, it was our turn to get the goose egg.”
Benschoter had a lot to do with that. Calling it one of her best performances, Elmwood’s junior standout fired a three-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks. Two of Archbold’s hits were of the infield variety, and none of its four baserunners — one reached on an error — moved past second base.
“I was really excited. I knew what I had to do and I did it,” Benschoter.
She got the job done at the plate as well as in the circle by going the opposite way to hammer a triple down the right-field line to start her team off in the sixth inning.
“It was an outside pitch,” she said. “It was just a perfect pitch — it was what I wanted.”
The triple set up an opportunity that Myers, the Royals’ junior second baseman, relished.
“(Benschoter) got on and I had the confidence and I was excited,” Myers said. “I was just excited more than anything. I just blanked (mentally) and did what I was supposed to do.”
The Blue Streaks landed runners on second in each of the last two innings, but Benschoter responded by striking out four of the last six batters she faced.
“It’s probably the best day she’s had all year,” Hoiles said. “She’s had some very good days, but this, by far, was the best. This was the best-hitting team we’ve seen all year.
“We finally got some good weather. We finally got multiple games in a week. You know, when you go two weeks and you play two games, it’s tough to get into a rhythm. She finally was able to get into a rhythm this week and she pitched great.”
Losing pitcher Payton Robinson went the distance with a four-hitter in which she fanned four and hit a batter.
The winner of Wednesday’s game in Fostoria will play for the regional championship against the winner of Wednesday’s contest in Bellefontaine between top-ranked Bloom Carroll and Ottawa-Glandorf. The regional title game will be at noon at a site to be determined.
ELMWOOD 000 001 0 — 1 4 1
ARCHBOLD 000 000 0x — 0 3 1
WP — Benschoter. LP — Robinson. TOP HITTERS: (Elm) Benschoter 3B; Myers 1B, RBI; Harvey 2B. (Arch) Gerig 1B; Beck 1B; Williams.
RECORDS: Elmwood 22-3; Archbold 26-2.