Josie Duncan of North Union prepares to slide into third base as head coach Dawn Draper gives her the signal to slide during a sectional finals game against Liberty Union Friday. The Lady Cats won 4-2.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The Lady Cats of North Union may not have played their best game during a Central District Division III sectional finals game, but they played well enough to keep their season alive as they took a close 4-2 contest against Liberty Union on Friday.
Josie Duncan got the nod to take the circle for the Lady Cats and was able to work her fastball early to sit the Lady Lions down in order.
It was, however, in the second inning when Liberty Union found the scoreboard first.
A single up the middle for the fourth Lady Lion and a sacrifice bunt put a Liberty Union runner in scoring position.
North Union got the second out with some nice fielding, but the Lady Lions capitalized with some timely hitting to take a 1-0 lead.
NU head coach Dawn Draper said Liberty Union had some hitters who forced the Lady Cats to make some plays.
“This team put the ball in play, so we had to work,” she said “We had some errors and let some balls in the outfield drop that shouldn’t have.
“Those things sneak up on you,” she said. “Then we’ve got to play from behind.”
North Union wasn’t able to answer in the bottom of the second despite Destiny Reebel winning an eight-pitch battle with a single to the grass.
The third inning is when the Cats began to pounce.
Duncan hit a hot shot between third and short stop and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Regan Martino.
Kennady Ruhl then gave NU the lead with one swing of the bat. She hit a deep fly ball over the center-field fence to give NU a 2-1 lead after the third.
Draper said those first two inning having to play from behind seem to last a long time.
“We’ve had some low-scoring games, but we are getting by,” she said. “I’m proud of kids tonight for coming from behind. It was the third when we scored and those first two innings felt like forever.”
North Union struck again in the fourth .
Reebel led off with a free pass when she took a ball off her thigh.
Laney Converse bunted Reebel to second and Jacklyn Fishbaugh followed suit.
Candace Halloway found the grass with a line ball to center to plate Reebel and give NU a 3-1 lead after four innings.
The Lady Cats found home plate again in the fifth with Reebel earning the RBI on a liner to left that scored Madison Amstutz.
North Union took a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning.
The Lady Lions did not surrender as they worked Duncan in the sixth for a solo run on three hits to bring the game to 4-2.
With only a half inning separating North Union from a sectional championship, Duncan was able to sit down the first two Lady Lions on six pitches.
Liberty Union’s final hope was dashed as Duncan scooped up a ground ball and made the routine throw to for the final out.
Even with the win, Draper said the game could have gone either way.
“They (Liberty Union) are in a league that really shows that they’re a pretty decent team,” she said. “We may have played the best that we could, but they could have tied it up easily with one swing of the bat.
“They are good and play in a good league,” she said, “so I was nervous about tonight.”
The Lady Cats not only have the tournament to continue with, but are also still in the hunt for a Central Buckeye Conference championship.
North Union sits at 13-2 in the league, a game behind current league leaders Benjamin Logan.
North Union will travel to Springfield Shawnee today to play its final conference game for a chance to share the title with the Raiders.
NU’s next tournament game will be against seventh-seeded West Jefferson on Tuesday.
Despite the high pressure to win a league title and stay in the hunt for a state championship, Draper said she is looking forward to the pressure of the game.
“It really helps set up that mental toughness that we need for the tournament,” she said.
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