Friday, April 22nd, 2011
By Ryan Hines
Celina one of only two unbeatens left in the WBL
VAN WERT - A pair of three-run home runs helped keep the Celina softball team on top of the Western Buckeye League standings.
Abbey Zacharias and Katie Kerr each slugged three-run bombs to help Celina to a 9-1 win over Van Wert on Tuesday night as the Bulldogs are now just one of two teams left unbeaten in the WBL standings.
Celina's win over Van Wert (8-2, 2-1 WBL) ends the Cougars' modest three-game winning streak, which leaves the Bulldogs (8-5, 4-0 WBL) and Shawnee (11-0, 3-0 WBL) as the only two teams left unbeaten in league play. Celina visits Shawnee on Tuesday.
"Van Wert is a very good team and this is a big win for us," said Celina's head coach Nicole Driggs. "Shawnee and us on top now and we play them on Tuesday in another big game. The WBL is so tough and it will be tough from here on out the rest of the way. We were on the bottom (of the league standings) the last two years and we didn't like it. We're fighting to get back to the top and that's our goal."
The Bulldogs' big bats buried Van Wert but it was small ball that sparked the Celina offense in the third inning.
Kaity Kuhn was hit by a pitch to start the inning and a sacrifice bunt by Kassandra Williams landed Kuhn on second base. Amanda Hoying then pushed a bunt for a base hit before a Christine Thobe RBI infield single allowed Kuhn to break the scoreless tie. Zacharias then stepped into the batter's box and absolutely smashed a three-run home run to deep rightfield that put Celina on top 4-0.
"That was a game-changing home run for us to give us a lead. It gave us some momentum and confidence for the rest of the game," said Driggs of Zacharias' fourth home run of the season.
Van Wert's second-year head coach Mike McClure knew that the Zacharias long ball was a momentum changer.
"When you are in a tight ballgame like we were today, a three-run home run is a big momentum swing," said the second-year Van Wert coach. "You can't throw the ball belt high down the middle against good teams because they know what to do with it."
A Morgan Williams' RBI single plated Van Wert's only run in the fourth inning, but Celina's offense went back to work in the fifth frame.
Hoying, the nine-hole hitter in Celina's lineup, ripped a double to deep centerfield and Zacharias drew a walk before Kerr crushed a two-out three-run homer to right-centerfield to put the Bulldogs comfortably in control 7-1.
Leah Rose's RBI single and Kuhn's run-scoring double in the seventh inning gave the Bulldogs a pair of insurance runs.
The extra runs weren't necessary as Kerr limited Van Wert to just three hits in the game and the Bulldogs' sophomore hurler struck out six Cougars' hitters in the complete-game win.
"We seem to hit the faster pitchers better and we have struggled against the off-speed pitchers like we saw today," said McClure. "We are a better offensive team than what we showed today. We struggled waiting on the ball to get to us."
Offense wasn't a problem for Celina as all but one of the Bulldogs' starters got at least one hit. Hoying and Rose each had two hits for Celina.
"I thought that we had a good day on offense all through the order and that's exactly what you love to see as a head coach," said Driggs. "We have been working the past few days on waiting for our pitch and then driving the ball. I think that we showed that today by being patient. Most teams have good hitters 1-through-four, but I think that we have good hitters 1-through-9. We have confidence in all of the girls when they get up to the plate."
Prior to Tuesday's huge WBL contest at Shawnee, Celina is back in action again at home on Saturday with Findlay coming to town for a doubleheader.
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Mostly cloudy, snow