By MICHAEL BURWELL
It will be an all-Raiders’ showdown in the Division IV regional softball final in Findlay on Saturday.
After the Wayne Trace Raiders edged New Riegel 1-0 on Wednesday, Lakota used two-out scoring rallies in the fourth and seventh innings to knock off Patrick Henry 5-2 in Thursday’s regional semifinal at the Marathon Diamonds in Findlay.
Lakota (20-7) and Wayne Trace (21-7) will square off for a trip to the state tournament at noon on Saturday at the Marathon Diamonds. Patrick Henry’s season ends at 20-4.
Lakota scored three of its five runs and had four of its eight hits with two outs.
In the top of the fourth inning, Aubrey Bickford’s RBI-bloop single to center field with two outs scored Bree Long-Meyer, who singled earlier in the inning, to tie the game at one apiece.
In the seventh inning, with Lakota leading 3-1, Long-Meyer started the two-out rally with a single that hit third-base and popped into the air. Alaina Bickford followed that up four pitches later with an RBI double to left-center field to give the Raiders a 4-1 lead.
Morgan Gangwer’s single to left field scored Alaina Bickford, and Lakota took a 5-1 lead and got the insurance runs it needed.
“I thought we battled well. We adjusted to the pitching as the game went on,” Lakota head coach Chris Chalfin said. “We started hitting the ball a little solid, a little better, and got some runs, broke the game open and got ourselves a little bit of insurance there at the end.”
In the sixth inning, after Gangwer hit a deep flyout to left field to start the inning, Aubrey Bickford singled to left field and Destiney Long-Meyer roped an RBI triple to right center field to give Lakota its first lead of the game, 2-1. A sacrifice fly to right field from Aspen Ray made it 3-1.
“When you get against these good teams, you’ve got to score runs with two outs, one out, no outs,” Chalfin said. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, and if you can’t get the big hits at the big time, then you’re going to struggle to score runs. Fortunately, we were able to do that.”
For Patrick Henry, the first five pitches they saw in the bottom of the first inning couldn’t have gone better. Natalie Herder, a freshman, ripped a line-drive triple to left-center field on the second pitch to lead off the game. Kristin Bostelman followed that three pitches later with an RBI single to give the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
Lakota, however, limited the damage to one run and turned an inning-ending double play in which Alexandria Crouse grounded out trying to bunt and Bostelman was thrown out trying to advance to third base.
“We got behind there early in the game, which oddly enough, we’ve done that the last couple of games and fortunately we didn’t get behind really far,” Chalfin said.
Gangwer, Lakota’s pitcher, settled down after the first inning and didn’t allow a hit until Madeline Hogrefe’s single in the fifth inning. And after a five-pitch sixth inning in which she forced two flyouts and a pop up, the junior pitcher was in control.
“They played a great game,” Patrick Henry head coach Mike Meyer said. “Their pitcher kept us off balanced a little bit in the middle innings. You got to hit the ball. You got to score runs.”
The Patriots, which won both of its district games against Continental and Van Buren with a 3-2 score, weren’t ready to give up, however. Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the first three batters reached base.
Alexis Miller reached on a throwing error from Alaina Bickford, Jessica Harmon singled on the next pitch to left field and Alison Imbrock reached base after Destiney Long-Meyer dropped a fly ball in center field.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Katie Kurtz drove in a run on a fielder’s choice at third base to cut Lakota’s lead to 5-2. With runners on first and second, Hogrefe grounded out to Gangwer for the second out as the runners advanced to second and third.
“When I went out (to the pitcher’s circle) with the bases loaded, it’s 5-1, so I told them ‘All three of these runs don’t mean anything. The one that means something is the girl at the plate, the tying run, so we’re not going to focus on going home, we just need to get outs,’” Chalfin said.
With Herder, a state qualifier in the high jump, at the plate with a chance to tie the game, she hit a hard groundball right to Harmon at third base who threw the freshman out at first to end the game.
“I called timeout and talked to her and said ‘You’re going to state in track, you’re my best hitter, do what you can do,” Meyer said. “And she hit a very hard shot to third base and the third baseman made a fine play on it.”
Gangwer earned the win in the circle, pitching all seven innings and allowing one earned run on just four hits. She had two strikeouts and a walk on 90 pitches.
Imbrock, who is coming off a bone bruise injury in her ankle, picked up her only loss of the season (12-1), pitching 6 2/3 innings and allowing five runs on eight hits while striking out two and walking three. She threw 104 pitches, including a 12-pitch at bat to Brianna Ray in the fourth inning.
“It wasn’t our day,” Meyer said. “Tomorrow could have been a different day. Today, no.”
LAKOTA000 102 2 — 5 8 3
PATRICK HENRY 100 000 1 — 2 4 2
WP — Gangwer. LP — Imbrock (12-1). TOP HITTERS: (Lak) Alaina Bickford 2B, 1B RBI; Aubrey Bickford 2-1B, RBI; D. Long-Meyer 3B, RBI; B. Long-Meyer 2-1B; Gangwer 1B, RBI. (PH) Bostelman 1B, RBI; Herder 3B.
RECORDS: Lakota 20-7, Patrick Henry 20-4.
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