By Gary R. Rasberry
HUBER HEIGHTS -- For the first three innings, St. Henry and West Liberty-Salem engaged in a pitchers' duel, even after a nearly two-hour rain delay and a call to arms -- or rakes -- by the Redskins.
The Tigers finally got on the board in the top of the fourth and stayed on top to beat the Cinderella Redskins 7-3 at the Division IV Regional semifinals at Wayne High School on Friday evening.
The 22-3 Tigers face Triad today in the championship game at 10 a.m. St. Henry, who went from 0-7 to winners of 13 of its last 17 games coming into the Sweet 16, ends the season at 13-12.
Early on, it looked like the game would be pushed back again as heavy rain stopped play in the bottom of the first with the Redskins batting. A cadre of St. Henry coaches, players and administrators grabbed rakes and helped clear the water and get the field back into playing shape. After a delay of an hour and 45 minutes, St. Henry went back on offense.
Both Redskin ace Karla Buschur and Tiger pitcher Emily Kauffman kept the other side at bay through three innings. In the top of the first, WL-S had runners on second and third with no out as Shea Blake came to the plate. Buschur got Blake to fly to Sarah Osterholt in right, who came up firing as Tasha Konkle looked to score on the fly. The throw was perfect to Brenda Hemmelgarn who made the tag for the double play to end the threat. Great catches by Kylie Elking, Osterholt and Rachel Schmackers kept the Tigers at bay. The Tigers also came up big with several pop-outs and ground outs. "They made some good defensive plays. We hit the ball hard a couple of times that they made some plays on," said St. Henry coach Josh Link. "Those drop, it's a whole different ballgame."
"We could tell they came ready to play," said Tigers coach Lenae Detwiler. "They came up looking good defensively at the beginning. We were hitting the ball hard, it was just at people. We knew if we kept swinging away, we'd get those hits to fall in."
Things changed in the top of the fourth as the Tigers scored twice thanks to a sacrifice fly by Sara Burkhammer and a single by Devon Woodruff. Two errors by the Redskins earlier in the inning made both runs unearned.
After the Redskins got one back thanks to a Janel Bruns double that scored pinch-runner Brittany Rutschilling, The Tigers scored two more runs. This time, Haleigh Hickenbottom's fly to center hit off the glove of Bruns in center, scoring Tasha Konkle and Whitney Woodruff to make it (Continued from page 8)
4-1. Another run in the sixth as the Tigers chased Buschur from the mound and two more came in the seventh off reliever Amy Uhlenhake.
All seven Tiger runs were unearned, thanks to five Redskin errors.
"We've been playing pretty good defense lately. That's what pretty much got us here," said Link. "Sooner or later, they're going to have some of those plays. The girls play hard every play of the game in every aspect of the game.".
St. Henry added one more run in the fifth and a final one in the seventh as Brenda Hemmelgarn dashed home on a Kauffman wild pitch to score the final run of her career.
"I'm so proud of them for not giving up," said Link. "Even Brenda at the end, trying to squeeze out another run. We had our opportunities. Some of them we were getting in other games, just didn't fall for us today. (West Liberty-Salem) is a good hitting team (collecting eight hits on the day). They put the ball into play, made us make the plays. That's how it went.
"I think we exceeded a lot of expectations that people had for us. These girls brought us on a great run and I won't be able to thank them enough for it. The seniors, I hate to say 'bye' to them, but I appreciated every effort they gave us all year. It kind of set the standard for next year."