By Gary R. Rasberry
BATH TOWNSHIP -- Parkway pitching ace Tiffany Steinbrunner pitched the type of game that would result in a win more times than not, but six Panther defensive errors allowed two unearned runs for Evergreen.
Lexie Pinkelman made the lead stand up as the Vikings eliminated the Panthers 2-1 at the Division III district championship game at Bath High School on Friday.
Evergreen (21-8) heads to Wright State University next week to play in the regional semifinals. The Panthers fall to 17-4 with one game remaining, that coming today as the Panthers host Coldwater at Mendon for a chance to win the outright Midwest Athletic Conference championship.
The Vikings gained a little measure of revenge after Parkway won 3-0 earlier in the season at the Crestview Quad. Evergreen coach Bill Steck said his team learned a little bit.
"We didn't do too much against them (the first time)," said Steck. "Tonight, we got hits when we needed them. "We had an idea what (Parkway) had. This is why I am very glad we became a part of the (Crestview Quad). It's really helped us tremendously because Parkway is a quality team. Whenever you defeat a team like them, you're doing well."
The trouble started from the opening at-bat as Ashley Herr reached first when Ashley Gamble could not pick up a grounder to start the inning. After advancing to second and stealing third, Caitlin Winn laid down a bunt. Laura Art got the ball and tried to throw to first, but the ball hit Winn in the back, allowing Herr to score the opening run. Parkway protested interference, but the umpires said she was in the proper running area.
"The fact that they were able to get a run on the board in the first inning gave them a lot of confidence," said Parkway coach Mark Esselstein. "We felt like we were fighting an uphill fight the whole time."
Pinkelman retired 14 of the first 16 batters she faced for Parkway as only a lead-off walk to Brittany Young in the first and Elaine Crowell reaching on an error in the second accounted for all the Panthers' baserunners until the sixth inning.
Things settled down for Parkway after the first as Steinbrunner kept the Vikings scoreless for the next four innings.
In the sixth, things got tense again. Herr reached on an error for the second time in the game. Taylor Langenderfer bunted the runner up, but a throw down to second to get a leaning Herr went into the outfield to put Herr at third. Winn reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners for Pinkelman.
Esselstein called for an intentional walk, which -- unlike high school baseball -- has to be pitched. Steinbrunner left the first intentional ball too close to the strike zone as Pinkelman singled in Herr to make it 2-0.
Parkway looked to rally in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Young reached on an error and went to second on a wild pitch. After Gamble moved Young to third, Steinbrunner broke up Pinkelman's no-hitter with a single up the middle to score Young.
Pinkelman had no trouble in the bottom of the seventh, getting pop-ups to short and second before enticing a groundout to second to end the game.
Pinkelman finished with a one-hitter, striking out six and walking just one batter.
"There was only one team that hit her well and that was Archbold (a team Evergreen beat in the district semifinal after losing the regular season conference meeting)," said Steck. "She does a real good job and she's only a sophomore."
Steinbrunner struck out seven and only allowed the intentional walk in the game.
"Honestly, the best team doesn't always win," said Esselstein. "They played better today than we did. We made mistakes, which they took advantage of. It took us awhile to adjust to the different speed of the pitcher from last night to tonight. We started putting the ball into play late in the game, we got a couple baserunners to third base early on, but couldn't get the big hit."