By DAVE HANNEMAN
MAUMEE — First-year Otsego girls softball coach Jason Colyer may be the new kid on the block.
But the guy knows his history, especially when it comes to playing Elmwood.
“Yes we got a couple of runs early, but we knew that wouldn’t be enough,” Colyer said Monday after his Knights scored seven times over the final four innings and held on to edge Elmwood 9-6 in a Division III district semifinal at Maumee’s Fred Rolf Park.
“We talked about winning every inning because we knew how talented their hitters were. They’re tough. Elmwood always has been for what, the last 19 years Matt (Hoiles) has been there.”
Recent history supported Colyer’s concerns.
In a May 2 game between the two Northern Buckeye Conference schools, Elmwood had to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie it and four in the bottom of the eighth pull out a 12-11 victory.
Even with an 8-2 sixth-inning lead on Monday, “safe” was not a word Colyer was throwing around in the Otsego dugout.
“We couldn’t settle. We needed every run,” he said.
“When we get together, it’s always a battle. That’s really a credit to (Elmwood’s) hitters and their resilience. They never quit.”
Otsego starting pitcher Shelbey Spurlock was sailing along pretty well through five innings. The junior right-hander had been in real trouble just once, in the second inning when she walked the bases full and gave a up two-out, two-run single to No. 9 hitter Liz Hall on an 0-2 fastball over the middle of the plate.
Spurlock responded by striking out four of the next six hitters she faced and retiring 10 of 13 Elmwood batters through the end of the fifth inning.
“It’s tough when she’s throwing as well as she was,” Matt Hoiles said. “She was mixing up the change-up really well today. Then she started going up the ladder and if you don’t lay off (those pitches) you’re not going to have a good day.”
But Elmwood, which also showed remarkable comeback ability by overcoming 10 errors and an 11-3 deficit in outlasting perennial softball power Archbold 15-14 in a district quarterfinal, wasn’t going to go quietly.
Junior catcher Chy Cluck, who was 3 for 3 on the day with two doubles, a single, a walk and two runs scored, laced a double leading off the bottom of the sixth and Makenna Benschoter singled.
Otsego first baseman Hannah Smoyer made a nice diving catch on Kayla Minich’s pop up, but Claire Meyer brought in one run with a single to left. Both runners moved up on a grounder by Hall and lead-off hitter Mattison Hillard delivered a clutch two-out two-run single to right center, cutting the deficit to 8-5.
Otsego made it 9-5 in the seventh, but Elmwood was right back at in the bottom of the inning, mounting another rally after doubles by Madison Hoiles and Cluck. Spurlock settled down, though, getting a pop out to first and a strikeout –her ninth of the game — to end it.
“Shelbey was outstanding today,” Colyer said.
“At the district tournament, that was exactly what we needed out of her. She threw strikes, she threw all of her pitches well …. Any time you get great pitching, you have a chance to win the game.”
Hoiles, who has won over 400 games as Elmwood’s head coach, agreed.
“You have to tip your hat to Shelbey Spurlock today,” he said.
“She kept us at bay. We scored some runs today. We’re a good-hitting team, but we just couldn’t piece them all together like we needed to.
“We came to play. They just got the better of us today.”
Otsego second baseman Holly Roe had a big day for the Knights (20-4), who will face NBC champion and No. 5-ranked Eastwood in Thursday’s district final. Roe lifted an opposite field two-run home run over the left field fence in the first inning, led off the fifth with a mammoth drive over the fence in right center, and singled and scored in the sixth.
Leadoff hitter Makenzie Wilson had two RBI doubles for the Knights, with Leah Rieger Hannah Smoyer and Hailey Asmus all adding RBI singles.
Elmwood dropped to 19-6 and had its tournament run come to an end. But things are far from over for the Royals who, ironically, face Otsego again today in an NBC game. Elmwood also has league games with Lake on Wednesday and against Genoa Friday on Senior Night.
“No one is going to give up because we’re out of the tournament. That’s not the Elmwood way,” Matt Hoiles said.
“We’ve not had a 20-win season in a couple of years and we want to do right by our two seniors — Allie Drees and Mattison Hillard — two four-year starters who put their heart and soul into this team. Our tournament run might be done but we’ve got a lot to play for, some small victories that hopefully we can achieve.”
Otsego 200 312 1 — 9 10 0
Elmwood 020 003 1 — 6 8 4
WP — Spurlock. LP — Benschoter. top hitters: (Ots) Wilson 2-2B, 2 RBI; Roe 2-HR, 1B, 3 RBI; Rieger 1B, RBI; Smoyer 2-1B, RBI; Asmus 1B, RBI. (Elm) Hillard 1B, 2 RBI; Hoiles 2B; Cluck 2-2B, 1B, RBI; Meyer 1B, RBI; Hall 1B, 2 RBI.
Records: Otsego 20-4, Elmwood 19-6.