Through two innings of their Div. III sectional final softball game with Morgan on The Hill in Sugarcreek on Wednesday, May 9, the Lady Pirates and Morgan had battled to a scoreless tie.
Then Zoe Johnson strode to the plate in the third inning to take a whack at Morgan starting pitcher Savannah Mozingo and changed the tone of the game.
With one swing Johnson seemed to open up the skies, her long home run to left breaking the scoreless tie, setting Garaway on its way to a 10-0 victory in six innings.
“We didn’t know much about this Morgan team, but I was concerned after watching them warm up because they looked well-coached, and we knew their record was misleading because they play in a tough MVL conference and they play bigger schools all year,” Garaway coach Dennis Koshmider said. “They were not going to be intimidated by us, but when Zoe hit that home run, I felt like the way we were playing defense and the way Kori (Gutheridge) was pitching, we might be able to win this game 1-0.”
It turned out they didn’t have to.
Gutheridge and Mozingo matched zeroes through two innings, and the Pirates’ hurler retired the Raiders in the third inning to set the stage for the ice-breaking homer. With one out Johnson manhandled a fastball over the wall in left center for the lead.
“I put a good swing on it, and it felt really good when it left the bat,” Johnson said. “She made a good pitch the pitch before but came right back with the same one, and I was ready, and I sent it for a ride.”
Garaway wasn’t done scoring. Kallie Regula roped a single, Maddie Steiner tripled to center and Cassie Donaldson pulled off a nice safety squeeze bunt to plate Steiner to make it 3-0.
Gutheridge tossed a nifty nine-pitch fourth, and the Lady P’s went right back to work in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs Mya Gee worked a walk, bringing the top of the order back to the plate. Johnson and Regula rapped back-to-back doubles, Regula’s driving in a run, and Steiner and Chelsi Rothacher each smacked run-scoring singles to make it 7-0.
Gutheridge kept dealing, throwing just 10 pitches in the fifth, but Garaway was unable to score, sending the game to the sixth inning.
The Raiders threatened, putting the first two runners on base with singles. A long fly to center on which Rothacher made a beautiful running catch with her back to home plate resulted in the runner moving from second to third, but Gutheridge got a key strikeout and then got a dribbling comebacker to end the threat.
The feel-good moment for Garaway, aside from the sweet taste of victory, was the way they were able to end the game in the bottom of the sixth.
Leading 7-0, Regula stayed hot, slashing a single, and Steiner followed suit. Donaldson then rocked a liner down the left-field line, and only a great defensive play stopped it from getting to the corner, but it did plate a run to make it 8-0.
Then with one out and runners on first and second, Kassidy Reidenbach stepped up to the plate. Reidenbach had missed four weeks and more than half the season due to an injury. While the senior ace pitcher won’t be throwing any more this season, doctors did clear her to swing a bat, and swing she did, driving a ball to the wall in right center. Donaldson scored with ease on the play, and Rothacher, who had forced Steiner at third, raced all the way home for the game-winner.
“It’s been a long time, too long, but it felt great to finally get back in and contribute,” Reidenbach said. “Going into my first at-bat (a sacrifice bunt), I was really nervous. But when I came up in the last inning, I kept telling myself I just needed to make contact and get a hit. It’s really nice to get back at tournament time. It stinks that I can’t pitch, but at least I can swing a bat because it was painful to watch knowing I couldn’t help us.”
Gutheridge was the picture of efficiency on the mound, picking up the win by scattering five hits and striking out two while not walking a hitter.
Head coach Dennis Koshmider had high praise for his junior pitcher, who has stepped in to fill the void left by the Reidenbach injury.
At the plate Regula had an incredible night, going 4-for-4, scoring three runs and driving home another. Johnson homered and doubled, scoring twice. Steiner mashed out three hits, scoring three times while driving in a pair, and Donaldson drove home two runs on two hits.
Koshmider said he felt confident that his team would eventually start to hit after a sluggish start the first time through the order.
“We’ve got experienced hitters, and getting Kassidy back in the lineup helped, although freshman Janell Mast has hit really well in her place,” Koshmider said. “I felt that once we got through the lineup once, we’d get better, and we did.”
After that it was all in the arm of Gutheridge and the gloves of the Lady Pirates’ defense, which did not commit a single turnover on the night and made a couple of defensive gems.
“I thought we played really strong defense, and we need that at this time of the year if we want to continue to advance,” Koshmider said.
By playing well in all aspects, the Lady P’s were able to fashion a 10-run win over a very capable Raiders team and advance to the district semifinals.