By DAVE HANNEMAN
MAUMEE — Findlay and Springfield showed up in nearly identical uniforms for Tuesday’s Division I district semifinal softball game at Maumee’s Fred Rolf Park.
Only the names on the front and back of the jerseys were different.
A conference champion seven times in the past 13 seasons, twice a state semifinalist since 2010, a perennial contender in the tough Northern Lakes League, Springfield was the team in blue and black putting it all together in steamrolling Findlay 11-1.
“The NLL really prepares you for something like this, because if you don’t come to play it’s going to bite you in the butt,” said Rob Gwozdz, whose career record improved to 341-123 in 17 seasons at Springfield with Tuesday’s win.
Springfield (20-5) will meet another NLL school, Anthony Wayne, in Friday’s 5 p.m. district championship game. Anthony Wayne beat Toledo Notre Dame 2-1 on a neighboring diamond as Springfield was putting it on Findlay (12-11).
Although Findlay was wearing the same uniforms the Trojans have worn all season, FHS coach Paige Jansen wasn’t sure she recognized her team as the same one that run-ruled another NLL team, Sylvania Southview, in last week’s district quarterfinals.
“I told the girls I wasn’t upset or disappointed, just disappointed the team I knew they could be didn’t show up today,” Jansen said. “I think if that team had showed up we would have hung with Springfield.”
Taylor Turner, a lanky sophomore right-hander, handcuffed Findlay on just two hits, both by sophomore third baseman Kallie Kramer. Turner struck out nine and, after a bit of a shaky start, retired 14 of the next 15 batters in order.
“The first two innings, I think she was a little nervous. Big game stuff like that,” Gwozdz said. “I think she was around 56, 58 (mph). By the third and fourth innings, she was back in her mid-60s.”
Turner struck out Shelbi Sargent leading off the game, but a passed ball on the third strike allowed Sargent to reach first. Freshman Paige Steinke fouled off four 0-2 pitches before grounding into a field choice and Kramer then grounded a single up the middle. Emily Betts’ grounder to second put runners at second and third, but Turner struck out Leea Ibarra to end the inning. Kramer’s single leading off the fourth was Findlay’s only other base runner the rest of the game.
“I think we can hit as well as Springfield,” said Jansen, who had five players hit .360 or better this season and five with 10 or more RBI. “But it got away from us. Today we just didn’t have it.”
Findlay’s Renae McDonald started strong, surviving a tense first inning thanks to a nifty double play turned in by right fielder Sammy Ricard. McDonald walked Springfield lead off hitter Kelsey Uhl and Courtnee Chapetta reached on an error. Turner then lifted a pop up into no-mans land in short right field. It looked like no one would get to it, but Ricard did, then quickly threw to Kayla Laube at first to double off Chapetta.
Kyleigh Conner’s pop to short ended the inning.
McDonald got in a bit of trouble in the second when, for the second straight inning she walked the leadoff batter. She then hit Alexis Orner with a pitch and, after a pop up, issued another walk to load the bases. On a grounder to short, Betts gunned down the lead runner at the plate. But Uhl belted a deep drive to left that fell for a double and cleared the bases. Uhl later scored on a wild pitch, completing Springfield’s four-spot in the inning.
Findlay got on the board in the top of the fourth inning following Kramer’s second hit of the game. Pinch runner Lyndsay Ritzler eventually reached third on a couple of ground outs, then scored on a wild pitch. Springfield responded with two runs bottom of the inning on Uhl’s second double and consecutive singles by Conner, Erika Case and Orner. The Blue Devils then unloaded in the fifth, and capped the win with a dramatic show of power.
Libby McCormick started the rally with a one-out base hit and pinch hitter Emmy Haney reached on a bunt single. Uhl was retired on a fly ball to left, but two errors on one play allowed two runs to score and Chapetta to reach second. Turner then stepped in and golfed a low fastball over the fence in left. Conner followed with a towering blast to left center to end it.
“One error became compounded by two and I think we panicked a little bit,” Jansen said.
“Í think the game speeded up on them and we just never could catch back up.”
Findlay 000 010 — 1 2 3
Springfield 040 025 — 11 11 0
WP — Turner. LP — McDonald. top hitters: (Fin) Kramer 2-1B. (Spr) Uhl 2-2B, 3 RBI; Turner 1B, HR, 2 RBI; Conner 1B, HR, 2 RBI; Case 1B, RBI; Orner 1B, 2B.
records: Findlay 12-11; Springfield 20-5.