By SHANNON DOVE
OAK HARBOR — Trailing 6-4 in the top of the seventh, New Riegel needed to create some offense or be eliminated from postseason play.
The Blue Jackets got the rally they needed, but Gibsonburg answered on its way to an 8-7 win over the Blue Jackets in Tuesday’s Division IV district softball semifinal at Oak Harbor.
Gibsonburg advances to play the winner of today’s game between Old Fort and Lakota in Saturday’s noon district final.
In the top of the seventh, New Riegel No. 8 hitter Haley Hoepf stepped to the plate and belted a triple to the fence in right field. Gidge Elchert reached first on a fielding error by Gibsonburg’s shortstop and Elyssa Theis followed with an infield single to load the bases with no outs.
Leah Bouillon reached on a fielder’s choice when Golden Bears third baseman Baily Miller threw home for the force out to save a run. Kristen Coleman drove in a run on a ground out to second, then things got wild.
Pitcher Aubrey Fleming threw a pitch that ricocheted off the catcher and bounced high before hitting the backstop. Theis bolted for home and slid safely as Bears catcher Ashley Hasselbach put too much mustard on her throw to Fleming at the plate. The ball then rolled to the infield and Abby Cantrell charged at it, but Leah Bouillon beat the throw to the plate and suddenly the Blue Jackets were up 7-6.
“We had almost the exact situation happen to us earlier in the season with the same pitcher, so it was ironic that, that happened,” Gibsonburg coach Marty Brown said.
“There’s no fault there with either the pitcher or the catcher, but they were able to get a couple of runs across and I knew if we stayed focused we should be able to come back to the plate and get a couple of base hits and make some things happen.”
And happen they did.
Hasselbach led off the bottom of the seventh inning with her second solo home run of the game to tie it 7-7. The Golden Bears added a run in the eighth to cap the win.
“New Riegel has a fantastic ball club and they played a fantastic game,” Brown said. “The game could have went either way and both us head coaches know that.
“New Riegel fought back hard to not only tie it up and take the lead, whereas we had to then rely on a couple quality hits to finish the game, which we were fortunate to get.”
“Exciting the whole way,” New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger said. “It was one of those games where we felt pretty comfortable to begin with.
“At 4-0 I was feeling pretty good. But those home runs with the wind blowing out and a good hitting team, that allowed them to get back into the game. We fought till the very end and it was great.”
Fleming got off to a rocky start for the Golden Bears, walking the first two batters she faced. After a ground out, Lindsey Bouillon reached first on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Emily Peters’ sacrifice fly to center field allowed Elyssa Theis to score from third, and Brianna Gillig followed with a two-run single, putting the Blue Jackets up 3-0. Fleming got a strikeout to end the top of the inning.
Leah Bouillon led off the top of the third with a solo home run to extend the lead to 4-0 for the Blue Jackets.
New Riegel, though, watched that lead evaporate quickly in the bottom of the inning.
Shylee Schmeltz singled to lead off the inning and later moved to third on Libby Henderson’s double to left field. After Marian Younker hit a line drive to third for the second out, Fleming cranked the first pitch she saw over the fence in left center for a 3-run homer. Hasselbach followed with a solo shot to straight away center to even the game 4-4.
“When we had our opportunities with runners on and we were able to connect when we did, we were very fortunate that time,” Brown said.
The Golden Bears took their first lead of the game in the fifth. Younker singled to lead off the bottom of the inning and moved to third on a double by Fleming. Katy Roberts hit a two-run double to put Gibsonburg up 6-4 and chase starting pitcher Elyssa Theis.
“They hung in,” Jamie Lininger said of his team. “(Gibsonburg) was Division III and went to regionals last year and that’s a school probably about three times the size of ours, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“It’s hard to lose that last game. But (the girls) have to understand too that I think we’ve overachieved a little bit this season. We’ve played pretty well.”
Fleming scattered seven earned runs, seven hits, four strikeouts and four walks through eight innings to earn the win. At the plate she was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle and had three RBIs. Hasselbach had a single to go with her two homers while Roberts singled, doubled and drove in two runs. Henderson had a pair of doubles and a RBI while Schmeltz doubled and singled. Cantrell and Younker each had a pair of singles.
Relief pitcher Jacquelyn Lininger was charged with the loss after giving up two earned runs on four hits and one walk with one strikeout in three-plus innings. Starter Elyssa Theis surrendered six earned runs on 12 hits in 4 innings innings of work.
Gillig had a pair of singles and two RBIs while Elyssa Theis singled twice. Hoepf tripled and Lininger singled while Coleman and Peters each drove in a run.
“I thought that this was one of the better games that I’ve seen against two equal teams in a long time and I’m glad Gibsonburg was able to be a part of it,” Brown said.
New Riegel 301 000 30 — 7 7 x
Gibsonburg 004 020 11 — 8 16 x
WP — Fleming. LP — Lininger. TOP HITTERS: (NR) Gillig 2-1B, 2 RBI; Le. Bouillon HR; Hoepf 3B; E. Theis 2-1B. (Gib) Hasselback 2-HR, 1B, 2 RBI; Fleming HR, 2B, 1B, 3 RBI; Roberts 2B, 1B, 2 RBI; Henderson 2-2B, RBI; Schmeltz 2B, 1B; Cantrell 2-1B.
RECORDS: New Riegel 16-9.