By SCOTT COTTOS
A couple of days after falling out of the state coaches association’s Division IV rankings, Carey seemingly took exception.
The Blue Devils, aiming for their third straight berth in the regional championship game and second consecutive spot in the state tournament, showed themselves to be solid in every aspect of the game while beating New Riegel 7-0 in Tuesday’s first district semifinal at the Marathon Diamonds.
The Blue Devils (19-6) advanced to today’s 5 p.m. district title game against North Baltimore (14-5), which topped McComb 2-1 on sophomore Simone Thompson’s two-run homer in the sixth inning.
The district winner will return to the Marathon Diamonds for next week’s regional tournament. Carey beat North Baltimore 21-12 in a regular-season contest.
Two-time defending district champion Carey beat New Riegel (18-9) with nine hits supporting senior Blayc Hacker’s two-hit pitching, with the Blue Devils committing just one error.
“This was one of our better games,” Carey coach Teresa Gillig said.
“I had a really good defense behind me, we hit the ball really well; we were solid all-around,” Hacker said. “It was good.”
Hacker, using her change-up effectively, struck out five, didn’t walk a batter and allowed few balls to be hit hard.
“Sometimes we look bad at the plate against change-ups, and she had a nice one,” New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger said. “She moved the ball around a lot. She’s a good pitcher and obviously, we didn’t hit her very well.
After pitching five no-hit innings, Hacker surrendered just a solid lead-off single to Julia Reinhart in the sixth and Brianna Gillig’s double to left to start the seventh.
Bridget Mullholand’s two-out single knocked in Felicite Smith to give Carey a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Hannah Lonsway hit a two-run single in a three-run third inning as the Blue Devils made it 3-0.
Smith singled home a run and Lonsway’s fielder’s-choice ground ball scored another to lift Carey to a 5-0 advantage in the fifth. The Devils’ final run came on a dropped two-out pop-up in the sixth.
In the other district semifinals, Thompson’s seventh home run of the season, a two-run blast to straight-away center, decided the outcome in the nightcap to support Katelyn Weinandy’s three-hit pitching.
McComb scratched out the game’s first run in the bottom of the fifth after Maddy Amburgey started the inning with a double down the left-field line. With two outs, Tigers third baseman Paige Hyatt bobbled Maddie Buck’s grounder, and first baseman Grace Rein subsequently bobbled Hyatt’s one-hop throw, allowing Buck to reach safely and Amburgey to score.
Panthers pitcher Shelby Steinbrook retired North Baltimore’s first two hitters to start the sixth, but Weinandy, a senior who will play at the University of Findlay, kept the inning alive with a double to the left-center field gap.
Thompson then clubbed a no-doubter to put the Tigers ahead.
“I was so happy,” she said. “Words couldn’t say how happy I was for that.”
Both teams’ coaches appreciated having been in a largely well-played, tight contest.
“That was fun. Those are games that make me want to continue what I’m doing,” Tigers coach Frankie Hernandez said.
“That was a good game all the way around,” McComb’s Troy Steinbrook said after his club finished the season 12-8. “I was real proud of the girls. I was happy with the way they played. They fought all the way from the beginning to the end, and you know, sometimes games end that way.”
New Riegel 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
Carey 013 021 x — 7 9 1
WP — Hacker. LP — J. Lininger (13-6). top hitters: (NR) Gillig 2B; Reinhart 1B; (Car) Niederkohr 2-1B, RBI; Smith 2-1B, RBI; Lonsway 3-1B, 3 RBI.
records: New Riegel 18-9, Carey 19-6.
North Baltimore 000 002 0 — 2 6 1
McComb 000 010 0 — 1 3 0
WP — Weinandy. LP — Steinbrook. top hitters: (NB) Weinandy 2B, 1B; Thompson HR, 2 RBI; (McC) Amburgey 2B; Hemminger 2B; Buck 1B.
records: North Baltimore 14-5, McComb 12-8.