Jonathan Alder’s Emily Walker gets a face full of dust Saturday afternoon after she steals second base at Mason High School. The Lady Pioneers beat Clinton Massie, 7-5, to capture the Division II regional championship.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Tim Miller)
Things got a bit hairy for the Jonathan Alder High School softball team Saturday afternoon at Mason High School.
“Are you kidding me?” said JA head coach Dave McGrew. “They got a lot hairy.”
The situation was tense for the Lady Pioneers as Clinton-Massie had the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and trailed JA by a 7-5 count in the Division II regional championship game.
Alder held a 7-3 lead going into the home half of the seventh before a couple of fielding miscues and base hits off Pioneer pitcher Katelynn Perkins pulled the Falcons to within 7-5.
A fielder’s choice and a hit batsman juiced the sacks with two down and the Pioneer Nation was getting a bit antsy.
Taylor Florea, who had started in the pitching circle for Clinton-Massie, went to the plate and worked a 1-1 count against Perkins.
She then hit a groundball that Perkins fielded and threw to first baseman Kelsey McDonald to end the game and give the Lady Pioneers (21-6) their second consecutive regional championship.
The game’s momentum favored Alder in the early going as it took a 3-0 lead after the first three innings.
JA got on the board with a pair of runs in the top of the second.
Cierra Clark led off with a base hit and Angela Brandel followed with a two-run homer over the left-field fence.
The Lady Pioneers took a 3-0 lead in the third when Lindsey Potter blasted a solo round-tripper.
The Lady Falcons threatened in the bottom of the third when an error, fielder’s choice and walk loaded the bases with two outs.
Perkins, however, coaxed a bouncing ball to the infield that thwarted the threat.
“Even though we didn’t have a clean game (three errors), our defense came up with big plays when we needed them,” said McGrew. “Emily (shortstop Walker) made some nice plays, but she’s done that all year.”
The Falcons made it a brand new ball game when they scored three times to tie the contest in the bottom of the fourth.
Perkins didn’t help herself when she plunked a couple of batters.
A fielder’s choice out loaded the bases.
This time, the Lady Pioneers couldn’t get out of the situation.
A fielding miscue plated two runs and another fielder’s choice scored the tying run.
Perkins escaped further trouble with a groundball out.
“We just had a couple of lapses in that inning,” said McGrew.
The Lady Pioneers got things back on track with a big, four-run sixth inning.
Perkins led off with a single and was lifted for courtesy runner April Wagner.
Clark drew a free pass before Florea induced a first-out pop-up.
McDonald reached base on an error, which allowed a run to score.
McDonald was then replaced by pinch-runner Rachel Kaeser.
Florea notched the second out on a strikeout.
Sophia Thomas slapped the ball, which the Falcons misplayed into an error. That brought in JA’s second run of the inning for a 5-3 lead.
“That was a big slap bunt by Sophia,” said McGrew. “That really seemed to get us going.”
Potter and Walker followed with RBI singles as JA’s lead grew to 7-3.
By that time, Clinton-Massie head coach Anthony Lauer has seen enough and made a pitching change.
Florea was replaced in the circle by Natalie Lay. She got the Falcons out of further trouble by coaxing a fly ball out.
Perkins retired Clinton-Massie in order in the bottom of the sixth.
Lay gave up a harmless single to Perkins in the seventh.
That set up the seventh-inning drama.
The Lady Pioneers committed two errors to start the frame.
A base hit preceeded the second miscue and brought in a run.
A single by Victoria Sivert then scored the run that pulled the Falcons to within 7-5 with no outs.
Hailey Clayborn’s base hit put the tying run on base.
Perkins got the first out of the inning on a pop-up and the second out on a fielder’s choice that left runners at the corners.
The JA hurler then hit her third batter of the day to load the bases.
Florea’s groundball to the circle, however, ended the game and advanced the Lady Pioneers to this week’s state tournament.
“Katelynn didn’t have her best stuff today (one strikeout, a pair of walks and three hit batsmen), but she maintained her poise and showed her mettle,” said McGrew.
The Lady Pioneers will now travel to Firestone Stadium in Akron for the state semifinals.
JA will face Beloit West Branch at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
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