By SCOTT COTTOS
FINDLAY — When Gibsonburg most needed its offense to come through, it did just that.
After falling two runs behind North Baltimore in the fifth inning, the Golden Bears scored seven times in their next two turns at bat and pounded out a 12-9 victory in the first of two Division IV softball regional semifinal games on Wednesday at the Marathon Diamonds.
Gibsonburg, ranked sixth in the final state coaches poll, upped its record to 18-5 and advanced to the regional final for the second straight season. The Golden Bears will face Ada or Tinora at noon Saturday for the regional crown and a trip to the state tournament.
North Baltimore ended its season at 16-6.
“Coming into this game, I knew it was going to be high scoring,” North Baltimore coach Frankie Hernandez said. “I thought it might have been a little bit higher than what the actual end result was, just because of the reputations both teams have for being hard-hitting teams.”
Junior Jasmine McNett, a former North Baltimore player, belted a two-run homer over the center field fence in the fourth inning for the Golden Bears. Libby Henderson finished with a double and three RBIs and Coral Kocsis had a double and a pair of singles.
Leadoff batter Makenna Ray collected three singles and an RBI for the Tigers.
After bouncing back from a 5-2 deficit to tie the game at 5 in the third inning, North Baltimore went up 7-5 in the fifth behind a two walks, an error, a run-scoring single by Valerie Buchanan and Mia McCartney’s sacrifice fly to send Buchanan home.
But the Bears churned out eight hits against losing pitcher Katelyn Weinandy, including two doubles, in their next two times up.
“They just hit the ball,’ Hernandez said. “I don’t really feel like our defense was struggling or anything. They just put the ball in play.”
Keely Snyder hit a two-run double in the fifth to tie the game for Gibsonburg before single runs scored on Henderson’s sacrifice fly and winning pitcher Aubrey Fleming’s groundout.
Bears No. 9 hitter Abby Ruth hit a run-scoring single in the sixth and freshman Mariana Alejandro followed with a two-run double.
“We’ve been a real good hitting team,” Gibsonburg coach Marty Brown said. “In the district final we had a big inning and today we were able to scatter enough runs throughout the game to put together a win.”
The Tigers wrapped up their scoring when Jordan Baker knocked in a run with a fielder’s-choice groundout in the sixth and Weinandy hit an RBI single in the seventh.
Hernandez was happy with the season his team put together, reaching the regional level for the third time in school history, after having to replace five starters from last season.
“I’m very proud of these girls,” he said. “These girls have no reason to hang their heads down. They can hold up their heads up high and be proud. The community of North Baltimore should be happy with these girls as well.”
North Baltimore 002 321 1 — 9 8 3 Gibsonburg 203 043 x — 12 15 4
WP — Fleming. LP — Weinandy. top hitters: (NB) Ray 2-1B, 2B, RBI; McCartney 1B, RBI; Weinandy 1B, RBI; Thompson 1B, 2 RBI; Buchanan 1B, RBI; (Gib) Alejandro 2B, 1B, RBI; Snyder 2B, 1B, RBI; Henderson 2B, 3 RBI; Fleming 2B; McNett HR, 2 RBI; Younker 2B, 1B; Kocsis 2-1B, 2B; Roberts 2-1B, RBI; Ruth 1B, RBI.
records: North Baltimore 16-6; North Baltimore 18-5.