Wednesday, May 30th, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
Roughriders meet defending state runners-up in semifinals
  It's been 26 years since a St. Marys softball team advanced to the state final four.
For this year's Roughriders to advance to the championship game for the first time in school history, they'll have to contend with a team looking to capture the gold after coming very close last season.
The 23-1 Roughriders will face 22-7 Circleville at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at Brookside Park in Ashland in the second Division II semifinal of the day. The first state semifinal contest pits 29-4 Greenville against 21-1 Akron Hoban. The winners from both games face off Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the state championship contest.
"It really hasn't dawned on us yet," said St. Marys coach Sue Grothause. "The kids are relaxed, going out and just playing their game. It hasn't really sunk in yet. Once we get to Ashland (it will)."
Grothause is happy that her team is getting a chance to play at state.
"We really never talked about it this year," said Grothause. "We knew we were going to be good, but the further we went in tournament, it was one of our goals. All of the sudden in the last week, the kids saw they had the ability to make a run."
The Roughriders punched their ticket to Ashland in style with another stellar performance from pitcher Kayla Thornsberry in a 4-0 no-hitter over Wauseon.
Circleville needed 11 innings to beat New Concord John Glenn 4-3 on Saturday to advance to the state final four. They join Bloom Carroll as members of the Mid State League playing this weekend in Ashland.
The Tigers are looking for the gold after coming home with silver last season after getting beat on a perfect game by LaGrange Keystone pitcher Kristie Malinkey, 7-0, in the title game.
Circleville brings back seven starters from last year's 23-8 squad. Pitcher Rachael Spangler is the ace again this season with a 21-7 record, going all 11 innings in Saturday's game against the Muskies. Twin sister Heather Spangler works behind the plate.
Like the Roughriders, the Tigers have had different players step up at different times. Freshman Lindsey Webb belted a three-run home run against Sheridan in the district finals. Junior shortstop Casse Morgan had a two-run single in the 11th inning against John Glenn to send the Tigers to Ashland.
Grothause knows the Tigers are good, but admits to not knowing a lot about them, which she said may be a good thing.
"I know they have a nice pitcher. I don't know how she throws, but I bet she throws like a Kayla Thornsberry," said Grothause. "They score runs. A lot of juniors (seven, compared to just three seniors).
"We don't know a whole lot about them, but that could be a good thing. Sometimes you tell the kids too much and get wrapped up in it and get nervous. We're going to go and play the game we've played all season."
One thing will be for sure, the pitching and defense that has gotten St. Marys this far will need to continue this weekend.
"The game on Thursday will be a busy game," said Grothause. "Someone might get a break. I don't think it will be a high-scoring game. It will be a low-scoring game. I think there's going to be some jitters."
The nice thing about the St. Marys team is that the Roughriders are strong throughout the lineup and in the field, which makes a scouting report basically meaningless.
"Every game, someone different on the team stepped up," said Grothause. "Tasha Fowler was 3-for-3 on Saturday. Bailey Smith was 3-for-3 on Saturday. Leslie Karner came up and had a base hit up the middle to score two runs. It's hard to scout someone like that because you don't know (who will have the big play). It's nice to have in our lineup."
The team has been working hard all season, something that Grothause pointed out in praising the team.
"They've worked hard in the offseason and hard during the season," said Grothause. "They take extra practice, hitting practice and defensive practice. They say 'Coach, hit me another ball.' It takes a lot of dedication and work. ... Your goal is to go as high as you can and try to make it to state. For a coach, it's the same thing."
The main priority that the Roughrider coach has been telling the kids, is to enjoy every moment.
"It's been exciting and fun. I told the kids to enjoy the ride," said Grothause. "It's doesn't happen very often."
NOTES - St. Marys City Schools is looking to put together a Spirit bus for students to ride up to the state softball tournament game on Thursday.
For more infomation, contact the school at 419-300-1452.
Tickets for the game are $7, available at the park.
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