Friday, June 1st, 2007
By Gary R. Rasberry
St. Marys to play for Division II state crown
Roughriders take on Greenville in first-ever title game appearance
ASHLAND - If the St. Marys Roughriders were concerned when Circleville scored in the top of the first inning, they didn't show it.
Sophomore pitching ace Kayla Thornsberry limited the Tigers to two hits and struck out 10 as the Roughriders advance to their first Division II state title game in school history with a 2-1 win over Circleville at Brookside Park in Ashland.
The 23-1 Roughriders will now face Greenville on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The 30-4 Green Wave, ranked second in the final coaches state poll, scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to beat Akron Hoban, 6-4, in the other D-II semifinal on Thursday.
Things looked a little shaky for the Roughriders at the start of the game, especially after Thornsberry hit Circleville lead-off hitter Heather Spangler with the first pitch of the game. After Casse Mogan popped to the catcher for the first out, Jill Truex followed with a walk after forcing an 11-pitch at-bat from Thornsberry. Freshman Lindsey Webb made the walk hurt with a single to center that scored Heather Spangler. Thornsberry threw 29 pitches in the inning.
"It was a little nervous," admitted Thornsberry. "I settled down. My defense came in to tell me 'We've got your back.'"
Meanwhile, Tiger ace Rachael Spangler, twin sister of Heather, kept the Roughriders tied up, retiring the side the first two times up on just 19 total pitches.
Thornsberry stepped up to start the bottom of the third, looking to get something going for the Roughriders. The sophomore came through with a single and was replaced by courtesy-runner Sam Davenport. Macy Ferrall bunted Davenport to second and Tasha Fowler stepped up and singled to right, moving Davenport to third as Fowler went to second on the cautionary throw home.
Erica Nagel then grounded to Rachael Spangler, and rather than throw to first, Spangler threw to Kara Valentine at third to get Davenport, but Valentine could not handle the throw, allowing Davenport to score tying things up.
Megan Schlater then reached base when Fowler was forced at third for the second out before Rachel Ginter connected with a single up the middle, scoring Nagel to put St. Marys ahead 2-1.
"Once someone's on, everyone's on," said Ginter. "It's like a chain reaction."
That was all that Thornsberry would need when it came to offense as pitching and defense took over from there. What Thornsberry didn't get with strikeouts, her defense came up with sparkling plays.
The most exciting came in the top of the fourth with one on and one out. Alexis Goode smashed a liner between short and third. Bailey Smith flew through the air, making the catch behind the third-base bag, bringing the Roughrider faithful to their feet as the dust-covered Smith showed the umpire she had the ball.
After allowing a walk and a hit in the first, Thornsberry allowed just one walk in the fourth and another single by Webb in the sixth, but neither runner made it to second base.
"I can't say enough about what Kayla's done for us," said St. Marys coach Sue Grothause. "She started out rocky, but she knows what she needs to do when she's out there."
"I thought we got out to a good start," said Circleville coach Dave Truex. "I don't think we hit the ball the way we're capable of. I give (Thornsberry) credit. I don't mean to say that's something we haven't seen all year. If I'm disappointed in anything, it's our hitting."
In the top of the seventh, Circleville looked to get a comeback, something the Tigers knew well how to do after scoring twice in the 11th to beat New Concord John Glenn in the Pickerington regional final last Saturday.
Thornsberry, however, was not to be denied, as Good popped out to Fowler for the first out, pinch-hitter Stevi Gualtieri struck out for Thornsberry's 10th of the game. It was Smith who got the honors for the final putout as Winner popped to the shortstop, bringing the Roughrider bench, with Grothause leading the way, to celebrate the trip to the finals.
"It's so awesome. It's wonderful," said Smith. "I can't wait. I'm nervous."
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