By DAVE HANNEMAN
Tinora’s Aubrey Reineke stopped running when the magnitude of her hit began to sink in.
Fortunately for the Rams, Lexi Miles did not.
Miles, a back-up pitcher pinch running for Tinora starter Ashton Helmke, legged it from first to home when Reineke’s eighth-inning drive rolled to the right field corner and scored the game-winning run in a 3-2 victory over Ada in the second of Wednesday’s two Division IV regional softball semifinals at Findlay’s Marathon Diamonds.
“I knew I had somebody really fast in front of me,” Reineke said.
“I knew I had to hit the ball hard. I saw it and went for it, and when I saw she was going to score I stopped and jumped because I knew she was going make it.”
Tinora improved to 16-6 and earned a spot opposite Gibsonburg (18-5) in Saturday’s regional final. The winner of that noon matchup advances to the June 1 state semifinal to be played at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
Ada’s season ended at 17-9.
Tinora entered the regional averaging 8.5 runs a game. And after watching North Baltimore and Gibsonburg score a combined 21 runs in Wednesday’s regional opener, Rams’ coach Garry Rodenberger was expecting his players to follow suit.
“To be totally honest I thought we’d hit the ball a little better. We made contact. We just didn’t put the ball in play the way I’m used to seeing us do,” Rodenberger said.
“It was not quite the game I expected, but you have to give a lot of credit to Ada. That’s a heckua team but we were able to squeak through and get a win. I always tell the girls it doesn’t matter how many runs you win by. You just need one more than your opponent.”
Helmke struck out 10 and did not walk a batter. The senior right-hander retired the first nine batters in order before Olivia Alexander beat out an infield single to deep short, the first hit of the game by either team.
Tinora gave their ace a 2-0 lead, scoring a first-inning run on a walk, an error and Helmke’s sacrifice fly to center, and adding a run in the fourth on a two-out RBI single by No. 9 hitter Sierra Salinas.
Ada then went small ball to tie the game 2-2 in he top of the fifth.
Teara Coulson reached on a bunt single to open the inning, stole second and scored when Nicki Lehsten’s seeing-eye grounder went off the glove of the first baseman. Lehsten took second on a ground out by Alexis Ennis, Alexander bunted her way on when nobody covered first, and Raina England brought in Lehsten with the tying run when she beat out another bunt.
“Bunting, being aggressive on the bases, solid defense …. that’s who we are and that’s what got us here,” said Ada coach Troy Erickson.
“We’re not that Gibsonburg team you saw earlier that gets up there and just destroys the ball. We’re not going to change because we’re facing a team that’s averaging 10, 11 runs a game. I know we can bunt the ball, so we’re going to do everything we can to try to scrap out some runs.”
Helmke was locked in after allowing those two runs in the fifth inning, retiring nine of the last 10 batters she faced.
Ada ace Leona Dalton walked two, struck out two and allowed just six singles until Reineke delivered her clutch game-winning triple in the eighth. Dalton had a throwing error in the first inning, and dropped a pop-up on the infield in the second. But the freshman was amazingly poised in the school’s first-ever regional appearance, retiring eight straight batters from the fourth to the seventh inning and 12 of 15 overall during that stretch.
“You watch my freshman pitcher start the game. She has a throwing error, drops a fly ball and you’re wondering, ‘This could be a really bad day,'” Erickson said.
“That motivated her and focused her. (Tinora) is a good hitting team and until that hit that ended the game, she was pretty much in control.
“She’s very, very poised. She has a very calm demeanor. I think that’s why she’s so successful; she never gets too high or too low.”
Dalton’s demeanor was typical of a fun-loving Ada team that, despite being in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the school’s first regional softball appearance, was boogieing and line dancing in the dugout before the game.
“You saw us in the dugout? That’s who we are,” Erickson said.
“I told them, ‘Don’t change who you are because you’re here (in the regional).
“We gave everything we had. What a great game that was. It’s too bad somebody had to lose … especially Ada.
“I’m extremely proud of theses kids. I’ve never had the privilege of coaching a team like this one. What a great year they had. It’s been a great ride.”
Ada 000 020 00 — 2 6 2 Tinora 100 100 01 — 3 7 1
WP — Helmke. LP — Dalton. top hitters: (Ada) Alexander 2-1B; England 1B, RBI; M. Gossard 1B; Coulson 1B; Lehsten 1B, RBI. (Tin) Clemens 1B; Helmke 1B, RBI; Horn 1B; Reineke 1B, 3B, RBI; Salinsa 2-1B, RBI.
records: Ada 17-9, Tinora 16-6.