SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP – Both softball teams in Tuesday’s Division II sectional semifinal game had plenty of opportunities.
However, several times, base runners were left stranded as both pitchers found ways to shut the door on the opposing hitters.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the 11th inning when Shawnee finally capitalized on an opportunity and won the extra-inning thriller over Celina, 7-6, on an RBI single by Kierstan Courtney.
With the sectional semifinal victory, Shawnee (19-6) advances to Friday’s sectional final against Elida with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. at Elida’s Dorothy Edwards Field.
Celina fell to 11-13.
Courtney (2 for 4, 3 RBIs) got to the plate in the 11th inning with two outs and one runner (McKayla Wolff) on base.
Courtney lined a pitch to right field that just barely went foul.
However, on the next pitch, Courtney drilled a single to right that scored the winning run.
“You just have to get back up to the plate and make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do,” Courtney said. “Everybody goes up there for contact, especially when it’s this close of a game. The only thing I was thinking about was to get runners on base.”
The Shawnee coaching staff preached all season about going with the pitch.
“We’ve been battling all year to take it the other way,” Shawnee co-coach Eric Truxal said. “We’ve been working hard on it. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see her (Courtney) come through like that.”
Both teams received solid pitching performances.
Celina’s Melody Donovan pitched the entire 11 innings for the Bulldogs. In all, Donovan threw a total of 189 pitches. She struck out eight batters and walked eight.
“You’re talking about a sophomore pitcher who’s been fighting and growing this year,” Celina coach Nicole Driggs said. “I’m just so proud of her because she did pitch a lot of innings and a lot of pitches. I was just happy with her composure on the mound as a sophomore in a huge game. Honestly, we’re all on empty (late in the game). And at that point, it’s when you really find out how good your team is. I loved that they laid it out there today.”
For Shawnee, Kay Shick got the starting nod on the mound. Shick worked 6 1/3 innings before giving way to Alyssa Windau.
Shick was tabbed for four runs on seven hits, while striking out four, walking two and hitting one batter. Shick tossed 97 pitches.
Windau gave up two runs on three hits, while fanning six and walking two in her 4 2/3 innings of work.
Shawnee took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Alyssa Windau and Jennifer Mitchell each had RBIs in the second for the Indians.
In what looked to be a game in which Shawnee had control of – at least for six innings – Celina then scored three runs in the top of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead. Kaity Kuhn and Callie Vogel each had a double for the Bulldogs in the seventh.
However, in the home half of the seventh, Shawnee’s McKayla Wolff started a two-out rally with a double to left. Hannah Taylor, the next batter, lined a single to left that scored Wolff and sent the game to extra innings.
Neither team scored in the eighth.
In the top of the ninth, Celina scored two runs on two hits. Alexis Zacharias had a double to left that scored a run. Shelby Barga, the next batter, smacked a single to right to give the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Shawnee responded, scoring two runs off a triple by Courtney.
Windau was solid on the mound the final two innings for Shawnee. The sophomore right-hander didn’t give up a hit the rest of the way.
The focus for Shawnee in the latter part of the season has been all about improving and preparing for a strong run in the postseason tournament.
“We talked at the beginning of the year that the objective was to be a better team at the end of the season, than what we were at the beginning of the season. …We wanted to continue to improve,” Shawnee co-coach John Young said. “So, they’ve continued to fight and to develop as the year went on.”