Friday, May 25th, 2007
By Ryan Hines
Smith and Thornsberry push 'Riders past Streaks
BUCYRUS - A quick start on offense has been a big boost for the St. Marys softball team all postseason and on Thursday in the Division II regional semifinal against Sandusky Perkins, it was no different.
Bailey Smith blasted a two-run home run in the first inning and added an RBI sacrifice fly in the third inning to lead St. Marys to a 3-1 win over Perkins.
The Roughriders (22-1) will return to Bucyrus on Saturday at noon to take on Wauseon (20-7) in the regional final with a trip to state on the line.
"It's really an exciting feeling around St. Marys right now because of the success and it feels great to move on," said Smith, only a sophomore.
Smith and the rest of the Roughriders have a reason to feel great as St. Marys is making its fifth-ever regional appearance, but first under current veteran head coach Sue Grothause, the mentor for the Roughriders the past 19 years. A win on Saturday would land the Roughriders at the state tournament for the first time since 1981.
"The girls have worked really hard to get to where they are and they're playing some pretty good softball, so they deserve to be where they are," said Grothause.
Smith's three-RBI game is a big reason for the Roughriders' advancement and the two-run home run in the first inning was certainly a surprising shot.
After watching two teammates go down swinging at rise-ball pitches in bad at-bats, Rachel Ginter reached base for the Roughriders with a single up the middle. Smith then absolutely crushed the first pitch she saw and sent a laser over the left-centerfield wall for a two-run home run. It was the first home run allowed by Perkins pitcher Kayla Poggiali all season long.
"It was just exciting when I got up there and made contact, because I knew that I hit it good. I didn't think it was over, but on my way to first I saw our first base coach jumping up and down and screaming and then I realized it went over the fence. It was an awesome feeling," said Smith.
Grothause has been appreciative of the quick starts from her Roughriders, who have scored first in each of the tournament games during the postseason and feels it pays big dividends.
"All season long we've talked about jumping out quick and getting ahead right away because when we play with a lead, we play with more confidence," said Grothause. "I didn't know if Bailey's hit was going to be a home run or not because it was such a shot. She kept her head on the ball and she stroked it. It was a bullet."
Then in the third inning, Smith gave the Riders an insurance run. Megan Schlater ripped a deep drive to leftfield that bounced off the glove of the Perkins leftfielder, allowing Schlater to cruise into second base with a double. Ginter then singled to put a pair of runners on base. Smith then hit a short fly to leftfield which was caught on a diving play, allowing Schlater to tag on the play and score for a 3-1 St. Marys lead.
"The extra run was very important, it was huge for us," said Grothause. "That moved a one-run lead to a two-run lead and gave us a little more wigggle room against a good team."
St. Marys pitcher Kayla Thornsberry made the three runs work as she was her reliable self allowing just one run on seven hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
However, it was a tough start for the Roughriders' hurler, as Thornsberry walked two in the opening frame setting up an RBI single for Perkins' Laura Speer.
Following the lone run in the first inning, Thornsberry didn't allow a runner past first base until the sixth inning. Perkins had runners in scoring position in the final two innings, but Thornsberry buckled down recording three strikeouts in the final four outs of the game.
"In the first inning, I think that Kayla was a little upset because the umpire wasn't calling some pitches that she wanted, but that's part of the game and I think to be a great pitcher you have to adjust and find the umpires zone," said Grothause. "I think as the game wore on, she got better at that."
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