By SCOTT COTTOS
FOSTORIA — Carey’s Blue Devils grabbed another piece of school history on Friday.
A day after beating Ridgedale for a school-record 18th softball victory this season, Carey tacked on another win by riding Dani Berardinelli-Clark’s one-hitter and some clutch hitting to a 5-0 decision over Columbus Grove in a Division IV district championship game.
Carey (19-9) is on its way to a regional semifinal for the first time. The Blue Devils will play at 5 p.m. Thursday at Findlay’s Marathon Diamonds against the winner of today’s district championship game at Oak Harbor between Lakota and Gibsonburg.
“I’m happy for the girls,” Carey coach Teresa Jacoby said. “They worked hard to get here. It’s a good feeling. Hopefully, we can keep playing strong. I told them going into the game we needed good defense, good offense and we had it strong tonight. Hopefully, it will carry on into next week.”
Two hits and two Bulldog errors helped the Blue Devils claim a 2-0 advantage in the top of the third inning. As Berardinelli-Clark cruised on the mound, Carey held that lead until the sixth, when Sydney Geiser belted a bases-loaded double, scoring three runners.
Grove (17-5) got its only hit in the third inning when Makenzie Wurth dropped a single into center field.
“Dani was on tonight,” Jacoby said. “When Dani’s on, the defense is on behind her. She pitched a really good game.”
The Blue Devils’ senior struck out eight and walked three. The only ball the Bulldogs hit out of the infield other than Wurth’s single was McKenzie Bame’s flyout to center fielder Bryanna Curlis in the seventh.
“I didn’t really change anything from the season,” Berardinelli-Clark said. “I just went in thinking I need to pitch them what I’ve been pitching the whole time.”
Columbus Grove had seven players reach base, but only three went beyond first.
“I felt like we kind of just had a hard time getting started,” Bulldogs coach Travis Gallmeier said. “We kind of battled. We started putting the ball in play. Unfortunately, they were right at their fielders and they were able to make plays. We just couldn’t string together any hits.”
Sydney Wentling started Carey’s first scoring surge in the second inning with a one-out single. Wentling stole second, went to third as Grove catcher Bame’s throw into center field, and scored on an error by shortstop Kyrah Yinger. Hannah Lonsway knocked in another run with a two-out single.
Lonsway singled with one out in the sixth, and the Blue Devils subsequently loaded the bases on singles by Caitie Carter and Sydney Ferguson. Geiser then unloaded the bases with a drive that reached the fence in left-center field.
“Sydney Geiser has been our clutch hitter all year,” Jacoby said. “She always seems to get that hit when we need it the most.”
Bulldogs pitcher Grace Schroeder walked two and did not strike out a batter against a Carey squad that has rallied spectacularly after beginning the season without a win in its first five games.
“The 0-5 (start) really just motivated us more to keep going through the season,” Berardinelli-Clark said. ”
Carey 002 003 0 — 5 8 2
Columbus Grove 000 000 0 — 0 1 3
WP — Berardinelli-Clark. LP — Schroeder. TOP HITTERS: (CG) Wurth 1B. (Car) Curlis, Berardinelli-Clark & Geiser 2B; Lonsway 2-1B, RBI.
RECORDS: Carey 19-9, Columbus Grove 17-5.