By ANDREW WILLIAMS
PEMBERVILLE — Elmwood will have the opportunity Saturday to raise a Division III regional softball championship trophy, but the Royals’ missed a chance Thursday to repeat as winners of the Northern Buckeye Conference.
Eastwood, which looked more like the team on an extended tournament run, got one run in each of the first three innings and held off Elmwood for a 6-3 win the final regular season game for both teams. Elmwood (24-4, 12-2 NBC) will play at 2 p.m. Saturday at a site to be determined against the winner of today’s game between Ottawa-Glandorf (20-4) and Carroll Bloom-Carroll (25-3).
On the line Saturday for the Royals will be a regional championship and a spot in the state championship tournament in Akron.
On Thursday, the Eagles (27-2, 13-1) did the exact opposite of what they did in a 9-4 loss to Elmwood on May 1.
A two-out home run by Cassidy Rolf in the bottom of the first inning gave Eastwood an early 1-0 lead, and Samantha Shirling practically shut down a potent Elmwood lineup for most of the game.
“Getting a lead on them is crucial because I knew sometime they would explode and get a few runs,” Eastwood coach Joe Wyant said.
“Getting the lead kept the momentum on our side. We got a lot of two-out hits today. I think at least three or four of our runs were on two-out hits. That’s what I told them we had to do, (and) that we didn’t do the first time we played them.”
Elmwood threatened in the first inning when Miranda Benschoter singled to lead off the game. But pinch-runner Paige Marsh was caught stealing before Olivia Myers tripled down the left-field line.
Shirling struck out Rebecca Harvey and got Madison Arnold to pop out to second base, stranding Myers at third base.
Marissa Tudor scored on Michaela Bunge’s RBI single in the second inning and Anna Rahrig drove in MacKenzie Albright with a double in the third to extend Eastwood’s lead to 3-0.
After allowing hits to the first two hitters she faced, Shirling struck out six batters and did not allow another hit until the fifth inning.
“The first inning I think Elmwood got two hits,” Wyant said. “After that I don’t think they got another hit until the fifth inning. Sam did a nice job, got in a groove early. I think she had five strikeouts the first three innings. She pitched well.”
The senior gave up one earned run on seven hits with six strikeouts and three walks in seven innings.
The Eagles provided Shirling with a bigger cushion in the fifth when Krista Jennings, Morgan Getz and Rolf each recorded an RBI single as the margin was pushed to 6-0.
Benschoter allowed five earned runs on seven hits, while striking out four and walking one in a losing effort.
The Royals plated a pair of unearned runs in the sixth inning thanks to an RBI double by Chelsie Schmitz and an RBI single from Jasmine Marsh. In the seventh, a double by Harvey scored Myers, but Shirling got Arnold to fly out to right, and Lindsay George grounded out to third to end the game.
“It’s an honor to win this league,” Wyant said. “I think this is our third one in the last seven years. I think this league is a very good league, top to bottom. Any time you win this league, it’s an honor and our girls came a long way.”
Elmwood 000 002 1 — 3 7 2
Eastwood 111 030 x — 6 7 4
WP — Shirling. LP — Benschoter. top hitters: (Elm) Benschoter 3-1B; Myers 3B; Harvey 2B, RBI; Schmitz 2B, RBI; Marsh 1B, RBI. (East) Jennings 1B, RBI; Rolf HR, 1B, 2 RBI; Rahrig 2B, RBI; Getz 1B, RBI; Bunge 1B, RBI.
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