By Gary R. Rasberry
FAIRBORN -- All it took for Versailles to beat Waynesville on Wednesday was to wear down Spartans pitcher Mollie Stock.
The Tigers finally got to Stock in the fifth, making the pitcher throw 38 pitches in the inning -- after throwing 60 through four innings -- and scored three times to break a tie and beat the Spartans, 4-1, in Division III regional semifinal action at Wright State University.
The Tigers (17-9) now awaits the winner of today's Parkway-Blanchester game on Saturday at noon at WSU for a regional title and a berth to state. The Spartans, who had lost just one of its four previous games in the state of Ohio -- the rest came on a early season trip to Florida -- ends their season at 27-5.
"When we put the ball in play, good things will happen," said Versailles coach Ron Mescher, who's team had three of their five hits in the fifth.
Versailles came up with a huge defensive play when, with the teams tied at one after Versailles scored in the second and Waynesville squared it in the fourth, the Spartans looked to be heading for the tiebreaker as Liz Shank made it to third after reaching on an error, stealing second and going to third on a bunt by Meagan Aiken. Spartans coach Brandon Phlipot signaled for the squeeze but Stock swung and missed and Versailles catcher Lynette Stauffer came up quickly and threw to Danielle Stucke at third. When Shank broke for home, Stauffer got the ball back and tagged her for the second out. The out proved costly as Stock singled before Rachel Stevenson followed by popping out to Stucke to end the inning.
"One out, runner at third with one of the best hitters in Southwest Ohio up, I decided to try the suicide (squeeze)," said Phlipot. "Obviously, it was a bad (decision). I think if we got that run in the inning, we get a little more energy and enthusiasm. Maybe we hold them that next inning."
In the bottom of the fifth, Kristi Schmidt started things out by being patient. When Stock worked the count to 2-2, Schmidt fouled off four straight pitches before taking ball three. After fouling a fifth shot, Schmidt drew ball four in an 11-pitch at-bat. Melissa Heft, the hero of the district final on Saturday with two run-scoring hits late, also played patient. This time, Stock needed 10 pitches to retire Heft on a groundout, moving up the runner.
Stucke grounded weakly back to the circle to move up Schmidt one more base for Chelsea Mayer who lined a single through the right side to score Schmidt for the game-winner. After Mayer stole second, Becky Smith singled to score Mayer to make it 3-1.
Stauffer wrapped up the scoring attack with a third single in a row to make it 4-1. In all, Stock threw 38 pitches in the inning.
"Melissa was up there forever," said Mescher with a chuckle. "She fouled a bunch of them off (four). I think we did wear her (Stock) out. We just played well."
"They were very disciplined at the plate," Phlipot said of Versailles' batters. "They kept fouling Mollie's pitches off. We finally had to give in to them. They're a great hitting ballclub. They got the key hits when they needed them."
Mayer started the game and got through three innings thanks to strong defense, but in the fourth, trouble came as Mayer walked Stock on four straight pitches. After Stevenson bunted Stock over, Amy Bricker received four pitches out of the zone for another walk.
Mescher wasted no time and called on Amber Voisard to pitch. Voisard did allow a hit to Jamie Mitchell to score courtesy runner Molly Fitzpatrick, but got back-to-back strikeouts of Chelsea VanHorn and Kelley Bricker to end the potential big inning.
"Early on, we had runners in scoring position," said Phlipot. "We didn't execute and didn't get the key hits when we needed to get up early on them. We knew we needed to score some runs because Verasilles is a good ball club."
After that, Voisard allowed singles to Stock in the sixth and to Shank in the seventh, but no other baserunners.
"Our plan going in was that Chelsea was only to throw two," said Mescher. "She threw two nice innings and we let her go on. She got into trouble and we brought Amber in. Amber finished strong."