By SCOTT COTTOS
FINDLAY — Dani Berardinelli-Clark took matters into her own hands.
And the runs that those hands produced on Thursday helped put Carey’s softball team one win from a trip to the state tournament.
Berardinelli-Clark, a junior pitcher, slugged a pair a two-run homers as the Blue Devils’ eye-opening postseason run continued with an 8-6 victory over Gibsonburg in a Division IV district semifinal at the Marathon Diamonds.
Carey will take a 21-9 record into Saturday’s noon regional championship game against eighth-ranked Convoy Crestview. The winner will advance to next week’s state tournament at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
“They just keep playing well and they keep battling in tough games,” Blue Devils coach Teresa Jacoby said of her players, who have forged a school record for wins in a season while giving Carey its first regional bid. “They keep sticking it out. I’m so proud of them.”
Berardinelli-Clark tied the game at 4-4 with her home run over the left-field fence in the top of the fourth inning against Aubrey Fleming. When she unloaded to center field in the sixth off Samantha DeAnda, it built Carey’s lead to 8-4.
“I didn’t go in thinking I was going to be hitting home runs,” Berardinelli-Clark said. “I was just trying to make contact on both pitches.”
Berardinelli-Clark, along with a 14-7 pitching record, also has team highs of six homers and 31 runs batted in.
“She’s made solid contact all year and she keeps getting that big hit when we need it,” Jacoby said.
Just as Jacoby was concerned about the Golden Bears’ ability to score runs, Gibsonburg coach Marty Brown knew the Blue Devils packed some pop in their bats.
“Because of some of the stats I’ve seen, especially with the top half to two-thirds of the order, I knew they were going to be able to produce some runs,” he said. “We were hoping we could have scored more, but it just didn’t happen.”
With Gibsonburg up 4-2, Bryanna Curlis’ double to right-center field started the fifth inning for Carey. Felicite Smith, Hannah Lonsway and Caitie Carter followed Berardinelli-Clark’s game-tying homer with singles, with Lonsway knocking in Smith’s courtesy runner, Olivia Haney, for a 5-4 lead and Carter sending Lonsway home.
Sydney Wentling drew a two-out walk in the sixth before Berardinelli-Clark’s second home run raised the Blue Devils’ lead to 8-4.
Fleming and Ashley Hasselbach each hit a run-scoring double for the Golden Bears in the bottom of the seventh, but Berardinelli-Clark finished the game by striking out Katy Roberts.
Carey struck in the first inning, with Lonsway knocking in a run with a two-out single. Libby Henderson, who hit a pair of home runs in Gibsonburg’s win over Lakota in the district title game, answered the Blue Devils’ run with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first.
DeAnda’s RBI single in the second put the Golden Bears ahead 3-1. Carey got a run back with Lonsway’s sacrifice fly in the third, but Gibsonburg went up 4-2 in the fourth on Shylee Schmeltz’s sac fly.
“You’re always a little worried when you get down on a team like that,” Jacoby said. “But I have confidence in the girls. I know they’re going to give me all they’ve got until the end, and they did that.”
Berardinelli-Clark struck out three, walked three and hit a batter while allowing eight hits.
Losing pitcher Fleming, who exited the circle with one out in the fifth, surrendered six runs on 10 hits while walking two and fanning one.
The Blue Devils know they’ll have their hands full with Crestview’s Knights. But first they had a win to enjoy.
“It feels great,” Berardinelli-Clark said. “This is the farthest we’ve ever gone and, I mean, it’s really a good feeling.”
Carey 101 042 0 — 8 12 1
Gibsonburg 210 100 2 — 6 8 1
WP — Berardinelli-Clark (14-7). LP — Fleming. TOP HITTERS: (Car) Curlis 2B, 1B; Berardinelli-Clark 2-HR, 1B, 4 RBI; Smith 2-1B; Lonsway 2-1B, 2 RBI; Carter 1B, RBI; Ferguson 1B, RBI. (Gib) Henderson HR, 1B, 2 RBI; Fleming 2B, 1B, RBI; Hasselbach 2B, RBI; Roberts 2B, 1B.
RECORDS: Carey 21-9, Gibsonburg 23-6.
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