By DAVE HANNEMAN
LIMA — Patrick Henry’s softball team fell well short of its season scoring average in Wednesday’s Division III district semifinal game against Liberty-Benton.
On this day, though, Patriots’ coach Mike Meyer was willing to settle for quality over quantity.
“Offensively, I can tell you right now we weren’t the best offensive team today,” Meyer said after Patrick Henry edged Liberty-Benton 3-0 at Lima Bath High School.
“We’re used to scoring 8, 9, 10 runs a game. But when we can win a game scoring three, I’ll take it and move on.”
Patrick Henry improved to 18-5 and earned a spot opposite Fairview in Friday’s 5 p.m. district final. Fairview outlasted Paulding 11-5 in Wednesday first district semifinal at Lima Bath.
Liberty-Benton, co-champion of the Blanchard Valley Conference, finished its season at 15-7.
Patrick Henry pitcher Becca Jones wasn’t overpowering. The junior right-hander struck out just three batters, but induced Liberty-Benton into 10 infield pop-ups and soft liners and kept the Eagles off balance start to finish.
“She got into a couple of jams, but she got out of them,” Meyer said. “When your pitcher can pitch like that, it’s always to your advantage.”
Jones retired Liberty-Benton on pop-ups to the pitcher, catcher and first baseman in the first inning, then got the cushion she needed.
Erin Diem led off the bottom of the first with a single off the glove of L-B first baseman Emma Grubinski. Diem then raced to third and Faith Frania was safe at first when the throw on Frania’s sacrifice bunt sailed high for what would be the only error of the game by either team.
Leah Johns brought in the first run with an infield single deep in the hole at short. Both runners advanced on Chloe Seedorf’s ground out to first, Hannah Meyer put down a bunt single to load the bases and Natalie Nelson, after being down 0-2 in the count, worked the count full, fouled off a pitch, then drew a walk to force in the second run.
“I’m a firm believer in playing small ball, if we have to go that way,” Meyer said.
Diem and Johns, who combined for four of Patrick Henry’s seven hits, teamed up to make it a 3-0 game in the second inning. Diem started it with a one-out single, stole second and scored easily when Johns doubled to the gap in left-center.
Three of the hardest hit balls all night were hit by Liberty-Benton in the fourth inning. One was a rocket right at Meyer, Patrick Henry’s right fielder; one was a line drive single to center by Kennedy Briggs; and one was a drive to center that Frania snared with a running catch.
“It was a tough day at the plate for us,” said Liberty-Benton coach Mark Verroco. “We thought if we could hit the ball, get it in play, line-driving it, we would have a good opportunity to run. But credit their pitcher, their coaching staff and their kids, they did a really good job of shutting us down.”
L-B starter Katie Veenstra, one of nine seniors on L-B’s roster, struck out six, walked two and allowed seven hits.
“We’re disappointed, but we competed,” Verroco said. “We’re going out on a sad note and losing a lot of good seniors (nine). But we competed as best we could, and that’s all you can do.”
Liberty-Benton 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Patrick Henry 210 000 x — 3 7 0
WP — Jones. LP — Veenstra. TOP HITTERS: (L-B) Young 1B; Pape 1B; Briggs 1B; Grubinski. (PH) Diem 2-1B; Johns 1B, 2B, 2 RBI; Meyer 1B; McGraw 1B; Johnson 2B.
RECORDS: Liberty-Benton 15-7; Patrick Henry 18-5.