BLUFFTON — In Columbus Grove’s past two games, errors have led to two losses. Against Bluffton, the Bulldogs eliminated those costly fielding mistakes and it resulted in an 8-4 win over the Pirates in a key Northwest Conference affair Thursday.
With the win, Columbus Grove improves to 4-1 in NWC action and 8-2 overall. Bluffton drops to 1-3 in conference play and 8-4 overall.
“Defensively we have played a lot better than we have the last two games,” Columbus head coach Travis Gallmeier said. “We have struggled in the field a little bit and tonight I felt that we kind of fixed that tonight.”
Against Bluffton, the Bulldogs had one error in the game and the team’s solid defensive effort complemented the pitching performance of Teyah Sautter who went the distance for the Bulldogs. The Columbus Grove pitcher scattered five hits, walked two and fanned eight.
In the final two frames, Sautter retired all six batters and struck out three of them.
Bluffton scratched out runs in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings with the run in the fifth tying the game but the Pirates probably should have scored more after getting runners on second and third with one out. However the Bulldogs defense stood tall to escape the frame with limited damage.
“She (Sautter) scatters the hits and when they got on base she is able to get outs and get us out of some spots,” Gallmeier said. “That is a good hitting team and they have some good hitters on that team but we avoided the big inning.”
While the defense did its job, the offense also produced for Sautter with the Bulldog hurler helping her cause on the mound. Sautter went 2 for 5 with three RBI. Sautter delivered a clutch base hit in the second that highlighted a three run second. She also knocked a base hit in the sixth that broke a 4-4 tie.
Columbus Grove’s Grace Schroeder also went 2 for 4 with an RBI and Jenni Ellerbrock also drove in a run. Emily Watt had a triple and two runs scored and Danielle Bame scored twice.
“We left some runners on the bases but the girls battled,” Gallmeier said. “When got out of that fifth inning I was pretty happy because it was pretty tight spot there.”
In the loss, Bluffton’s Averey Rumor was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI. Teammate Katie Prater had a double and scored twice.
Bluffton head coach Tony Rumer said he was disappointed with the loss but encouraged by the way his team fought throughout the contest.
“What I liked seeing is that we kept battling,” Rumer said. “We had a couple of miscues in a couple of situations and they took advantage of it and that was the bottom line.”
The win keeps Columbus Grove in the thick of the NWC race.
“It was really nice to get back on track and get a win here and be fundamentally sound in the field,” Gallmeier said.
While Columbus Grove appears to have righted the ship, the Pirates, who have lost two straight find themselves in a rut Rumer said.
“We got to get out of the rut and that is the bottom line,” Rumer said. “Am I concerned, of course I am. But overall I like what I am seeing.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter @JoseNogueras1