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In a Div. III high school sectional softball tournament, there's really not much difference between the team seeded eighth and the one seeded ninth. So a gapper here or a hiccup there could impact the outcome.
The final margin Thursday, however, was five runs as No. 9 seed Loudonville harvested a 6-1 victory over host Waynedale, the No. 8 seed. The Redbirds advanced to a sectional final Friday at Tuslaw, which the Redbirds lost 11-0.
Erika Leitenberger's bases-loaded triple in the top of the fifth broke open a scoreless struggle. Her blast to right-center plated Tiffany Hedrick, Sydney Hootman and Kacey Spreng. Leitenberger became the fourth tally of the rally when she tagged up from third on a sacrifice RBI fly ball to center off the bat of Maddie Leedy.
Loudonville (9-16) tacked on two more runs in the sixth and for Waynedale (10-16), the lone slash on the board was the result of Mallory Shoup's two-out solo blast over the fence in the right-field corner in the sixth inning. Shoup came up again in the seventh with two outs and the bases loaded, but her routine grounder to first base ended the Golden Bears' tournament hopes.
Waynedale, which stranded two baserunners in the sixth and three in the seventh, will wrap up its 2017 season at Dalton on Saturday.
Thanks to six total hits in the final two frames, the Bears actually outslugged the Redbirds 9-7 in the hit column. Waynedale, however, was guilty of three errors two on short fly balls to the outfield that were gloved, but not caught. Loudonville had just one throwing error on a hard line drive to short that had double-play written all over it.
"We couldn't come up with some big hits when we needed 'em and Loudonville did, so good luck to them in the tournament," said Waynedale head coach Stu Swinehart. "We're young, and we have everybody back. We start five freshmen and have no seniors, so it was going to be a learning year for us."
"I liked that we kept fighting and didn't get down," Fenton said. "We tend to get a little relaxed even when we get a lead and we let even big leads like that really, really slip. It's just the mental game with us, so being able to stay strong and still get the out with the bases loaded at the end, I was really proud of that."
Senior right-hander Morgan Temple went the distance for Loudonville on Thursday. Fenton said she hadn't yet decided who to put in the circle against a very sound Tuslaw team. The Redbirds, who have completed their regular season, have Spreng and Leitenberger who also pitch.
Loudonville had its leadoff batters on base in the second and fourth innings, but couldn't scratch out a run. But when Hedrick doubled to left to lead off the top of the fifth, it was go-time for Redbirds. Hootman followed with a short fly to center that was misplayed and Spreng laced a base knock to left to fill the bags for Leitenberger.
In the sixth stanza, Morgan Leedy drew a leadoff walk and Shayla Edmonson was hit by a pitch. Another looper, this time to short right field of the bat of Hootman, was mishandled. Edmonson scored from third (Leedy earlier had been forced out unassisted at third on a Hedrick grounder to third) on a roller to short by Spreng for the second out. Hedrick eventually raced home when a third strike to a swinging Leitenberger bounced away from the catcher to the first-base side of the plate and there was no play, with Leitenberger safe at first. Hootman was left high and dry at third and Leitenberger was stranded at first.
The Redbirds had a two-out rally in the seventh, only to leave two more runners on-base.
Waynedale left two baserunners at the altar following Shoup's homer in the sixth. With two outs in the home half of the seventh, the Bears' Madelon Snyder, Madison Rowe and Cara Keim delivered three straight singles to put the pinch on the Loudonville defense. But the threat was all for naught.
Megan Amstutz pitched the first five innings for Waynedale, with Keelin Lloyd taking over in relief to start the sixth.
Maddie Leedy was the lone Redbird with two hits, both singles. Waynedale's Shoup had a single in addition to her four-bagger, while Snyder had two singles and Amstutz doubled.