By MICHAEL BURWELL
for the review times
BELLEFONTAINE — Elmwood accomplished something no other team had been able to do against Bloom-Carroll junior pitcher Taran Alvelo so far in tournament — score runs.
But the Bulldogs’ bats made sure to eliminate any chance of the Royals making the state tournament, as they exploded for 18 hits, including five home runs, and beat Elmwood 19-3 in six innings in a Division III regional final Saturday at Bellefontaine High School.
Bloom-Carroll (27-3), the reigning state champion and the state’s top-ranked team in Division III, will play Akron Manchester (20-8) in the state semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Firestone Stadium in Akron. Fifth-ranked Elmwood’s season ended at 24-5.
Back-to-back home runs, including a three-run shot to center field by Abby Grover, gave Bloom Carroll a 4-0 lead after the top of the first inning.
And considering the way Alvelo had been pitching — she entered the game with two straight no-hit, 17-strikeout performances and no runs allowed in the tournament — Elmwood was in trouble right away.
But Miranda Benschoter eliminated any hopes of another no-hitter with her lead-off single just past Bloom-Carroll second-baseman Haley Starr.
After a strikeout and a catcher’s interference play that sent Rebecca Harvey to first base, Madison Arnold doubled home Benschoter to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 4-1. Two pitches later, Harvey scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit in half.
Alvelo, who has verbally committed to the University of Washington and has thrown nine no-hitters this season, wasn’t fazed by the runs and hits, however.
“I didn’t even think about it because I knew they were a great team,” Alvelo said. “Who we played was a great team.
“They came out swinging and that’s to be expected. You play a good team, they’re going to get their hits, too, and we just came back with more.”
She struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning and settled down after that. Alvelo pitched all six innings, striking out 16 batters and bringing her career strikeout total to 1,070. The only outs that weren’t strikeouts came in the third inning: Benschoter’s flyout to right field and Olivia Myers’ lineout.
“It was really great to come out and especially get the four-run cushion because when you have a pitcher like Taran, sometimes four runs is enough to keep you sustained through the figuring-it-out process, and that’s kind of where we were today,” Bloom-Carroll head coach Aaron Alvelo, Taran’s father, said.
As Taran Alvelo compiled strikeout after strikeout, the Bulldogs blew the game open with a four-run fourth inning and an 11-run sixth inning. Bloom-Carroll had four hits, including a two run single from Alvelo — who finished the day with four singles and four RBIs — to open up an 8-2 lead after 4½ innings.
The sixth inning was the icing on the cake for Bloom Carroll’s day. Fourteen batters went to the plate, with eight of them getting hits. Morgan Sells and Ashley Ireland led off the inning with back-to-back home runs.
Alvelo hit her second two-run single of the game to make it 17-2, and Grover hit her second home run of the game, a two-run shot to left field, to give the Bulldogs a 19-2 lead.
Overall, eight of the nine batters had a hit for Bloom-Carroll. Sells added three singles to her home run and had two RBIs, while McKenna Coffman collected a triple, double, single and RBI and Kaylee Springer had three three singles.
“It’s really relieving going up into Akron now with our bats alive,” Taran Alvelo said. “We’ve been waiting all season for them to come alive, and everybody is on now. Everybody is hot.”
Lindsay George’s RBI double off the left-field fence with two outs in the sixth inning made the score 19-3, but Alvelo struck out the next batter to end the game.
Benschoter took the loss for Elmwood, pitching all six innings. Arnold ripped two doubles and drove in a run to lead the Royals at the plate.
“The one thing I’m most proud of is we rocked their world first. We came out, we were ready, we had a good game plan,” Elmwood coach Matt Hoiles said. “They hit. We knew that. But to do what we did against her, I don’t know if there are too many teams that have ever done that to her.”
Bloom-Carroll 400 40(11) — 19 18 0
Elmwood 200 001 — 3 4 2
WP — Alvelo. LP — Benschoter. top hitters: (B-C) Sells HR, 3-1B, 2 RBI; Grover 2-HR, 5 RBI; Alvelo 4-1B, 4 RBI; Coffman 3B, 2B, 1B, RBI; Ireland HR; Detwiler HR. (Elm) Arnold 2-2B, RBI; George 2B, RBI.
records: Bloom-Carroll 27-3; Elmwood 24-5.