Jonathan Alder shorstop Emily Walker, left, can’t come up with the tag on this stolen base by West Branch’s Grace Heath on Thursday. The Lady Pioneers dropped the Division II state semifinal game, 5-4, at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
All season long, Jonathan Alder High School head softball coach Dave McGrew has been looking for what he calls “that perfect game.”
What he meant by that is a game in which the Lady Pioneers did not commit a defensive error.
That perfect game remained an elusive commodity Thursday morning when Alder (21-7) dropped a 5-4 verdict to Beloit West Branch in the Division II state semifinals.
The Lady Pioneers committed three errors on the field at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
“We’ve won this season even when we didn’t play that perfect defensive game,” said McGrew. “The girls have been resilient when we haven’t had it, but today we didn’t have the hitting to offset (the errors).”
Shortstop Emily Walker agreed that had Alder not made the errors, the game’s outcome could very well have been different.
“Our defense just wasn’t there,” she said.
The Warriors scored one of their runs in the fourth inning after JA committed two of its fielding miscues.
The biggest Alder mistake, however, came in the bottom of the sixth when the score was tied at 4-4.
JA pitcher Katelynn Perkins got the first out of the frame on a fly ball.
The second out appeared imminent when West Branch’s Hannah Sprague lofted a foul ball behind the backstop.
The ball dropped in for a foul between Alder players.
That gave Sprague new life and she eventually worked a walk from Perkins.
Sprague went to second on Jordan Anderson’s sacrifice bunt and scored the eventual winning run on a base hit by Grace Heath.
The Lady Pioneers got on the scoreboard first with a run in the visitors’ portion of the second inning.
Perkins singled against Warrior starter Kelsey Byers and went to second on an error.
The JA pitcher was lifted in favor of courtesy runner April Wagner, who raced home on Cierra Clark’s base hit.
Clark took second on a sacrifice bunt and went to third on a fielder’s choice.
A fly ball out, however, left her there at the end of the inning.
West Branch (which is now 26-3) took the lead with a trio of runs in the bottom of the third.
Sprague drew a walk with one down and advanced on Anderson’s sacrifice bunt.
Heath ripped a triple that tied the game at 1-1.
Perkins had two strikes on Kylie Coffelt, but got the next pitch a little up and in.
Coffelt turned on the ball and deposited it over the left-field fence for a two-run blast that gave West Branch a 3-1 advantage.
Perkins then got out of the inning with a strikeout.
Those first three runs were scored with two outs. That set a trend for the rest of the game as the remainder of the Warriors’ runs came when JA was only an out away from finishing an inning.
The scenario repeated itself in the fourth.
That’s when Alder committed a pair of errors in between two outs.
There were runners on second and third when Sprague singled up the middle.
That brought in the run that gave the Warriors a 4-1 lead.
Perkins plunked a batter to load the bases, but got out of the jam with a third-out pop-up.
The Lady Pioneers, though, kept fighting and pulled to within 4-3 in the fifth.
Kelsey McDonald led off the inning with a single and Olivia McCoy walked.
They both scored with two down when Emily Walker ripped the second of her two triples.
“I had some recent trouble timing some pitchers,” said Walker after the game. “I’ve been working on that and got two pitches timed that I hit.”
Walker finished with a pair of JA’s seven hits.
Byers escaped further damage with an inning-ending fly ball.
Perkins dodged a bullet in the home half of the sixth.
The Warriors got runners on with a double by Byers and an error off Delaney Rito’s bat.
A fly ball and strikeout, though, kept West Branch off the scoreboard.
Alder tied the contest at 4-4 in the top of the sixth.
Perkins drew a walk off Coffelt, who went in to pitch in relief at the start of the frame.
Courtesy runner Wagner went to second on Clark’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Angela Brandel’s base hit.
Brandel took second on McDonald’s sacrifice bunt, but was left there after an inning-ending strikeout.
The Warriors scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth, but the Lady Pioneers still kept battling during their final at-bat in the seventh.
Sophia Thomas legged out an infield single and put the tying run on second when she advanced on Lindsey Potter’s sacrifice bunt.
At that point, Byers went back to the circle in relief of Coffelt.
She ended the game and notched the save by striking out the final two Alder batters.
Byers pitched 5 2/3 innings. She fanned six and walked just one batter.
Coffelt, who was the pitcher of record when West Branch scored the go-ahead run, allowed two hits in 1 1/3 innings of work.
Perkins went the distance for Alder. She gave up six hits, struck out three and issued four walks.
“I tried to focus on my drop-curve,” said the JA senior. “I didn’t get the inside corner (from the umpire) and struggled hitting my spots.”
“We felt pretty good going into the game, because we’ve been here before,” said McGrew. “However, we were slow making adjustments at the plate and West Branch did what they needed to do in order to win.”
JA 010 021 0-4 7 3
WB 003 101 x-5 6 1
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