BY MATT NYE
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” the old saying goes.
With runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Elmwood sophomore Lindsay George felt pressure to get the winning run home. She battled in a 15-pitch at-bat that finally went her way.
George hit a ground ball to third, but instead of going to the plate, the throw went to first. George was out, but Rebecca Harvey scored and the fifth-ranked Royals outlasted No. 4 New London 2-1 in a Division III regional semifinal at Fostoria High School.
Elmwood (24-3) advances to Saturday’s regional championship game at a location to be announced against the winner of Friday’s contest in Bellefontaine between top-ranked Bloom-Carroll and Ottawa-Glandorf. Saturday’s winner will advance to the state tournament in Akron.
The Bloom-Carroll vs. O-G game was postponed from Wednesday.
“I knew I just needed to get it in play so the run could score,” George said. “I just needed to get that run in, so we could win. There was a lot of pressure. (New London pitcher Alex Bowers) threw about everything, rise(balls) and a lot of outside changeups.
“This feels great because we’ve accomplished so much this season and we needed to get this win so we could keep going.”
Winning pitcher Miranda Benschoter struck out 11 batters and gave up no earned runs with just two walks in all nine innings. Not to be outmatched, Bowers also recorded 11 strikeouts and no earned runs with one walk in a complete game as the Wildcats fell to 20-6.
“In a game that goes nine innings, you’ve got to tip your hat to New London,” Elmwood coach Matt Hoiles said. “The report on them was that their pitcher could shut you down, and she did. We kept fighting and good things happen when you keep fighting. Hell of a game.”
Hoiles added: “It was pitch for pitch tonight. These were two good pitchers tonight and it was exactly what we got from Archbold last Saturday and I bet we see some more good pitching moving forward as well.”
The pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts in the first three innings before New London struck first in the fourth inning. Rylee Haswell reached first base on an error and then tagged up on a fly ball to left field and got to second with two outs. Elise Chaffins then hit a ball to the left of Benschoter, whose off-balance throw went for an error, allowing Haswell to score.
Elmwood responded in the sixth inning to tie the game as Sarah Williams came off the bench to lead off with a base hit up the middle. Olivia Myers then hit a shot off the second baseman’s glove, and Brandie Vargas, running for Williams, blew through a Hoiles’ stop sign at third base to even the game at 1.
“I gave her the benefit of the doubt because she scored,” Hoiles said with a smile. “She said she didn’t hear me on that play.”
New London tried to start something in the top of the seventh inning after a Taylor Parrott single, but Benschoter shut the door by striking out three consecutive batters.
The Royals tried to win the game in the bottom of the seventh inning as Jasmine Marsh walked and then stole second with two outs and Kristi Reiser at the plate. Reiser then hit a drive to center that was caught for the third out.
“We came in expecting a 1-0 or 2-1 game, and when you get to this level, this is what you expect,” Wildcats’ coach Chip Motolik said. “There was good pitching, good defense and timely hitting. There were a couple of spots where we didn’t get all three phases. Ours happened late in the game while theirs happened earlier in the game, so they had a chance to rebuild and come back from that.
“It was a great high school softball game. I’m proud of my seniors and we will bounce back tomorrow. They are strong young ladies.”
Arnold, Benschoter, Williams and Chelsie Schmitz accounted for the four singles for Elmwood.
New London 000 100 000 – 1 5 2 Elmwood 000 001 001 – 2 4 2
WP — Benschoter. LP — Bowers. top hitters: (NL) Chaffins 1B, RBI; Moody 2-1B. (E) Myers RBI; George RBI.
records: New London 20-6; Elmwood 24-3.