When it comes to state softball tournament time, no game can be taken for granted. The Pirates received a quick reminder of that in the early stages of a sectional semi-final match-up with the Newcomerstown Trojans. Sometimes all it takes is an unknown pitcher and perhaps a couple balls landing in the wrong place to put a scare into a favored team. That was the situation the Pirates faced in the early innings against a spirited Trojan team.
Earlier in the season the Pirates dominated Newcomerstown with a 17-0 win. Allison Luneborg pitched a no-hitter that night while striking out 17. Luneborg came out in the first inning of this game and put the Trojans down 1-2-3.
On the other side of the field, Newcomerstown turned the circle over to freshman Raegan Smith. The lefty hurler had never pitched against Garaway. It proved to be an advantage for the Trojans through the first two innings. Smith struck out the first two Pirates and then induced a slow ground out to end the inning. The score was 0-0 after one inning.
Sparked by their pitcher, Rachel Hinton led off the top of the second for Newcomerstown with a single. Hinton moved up to second base on a ground out. At this point, the strong cross wind blowing left to right across the field played a factor in the game. Raegan Smith hit what looked like a routine pop fly to Pirate shortstop Zoe Johnson. With the wind playing tricks on the ball, Johnson had the ball glance off the tip of her glove, hitting her square on the forehead. After a brief game delay, Johnson hopped up and continued play.
Desarae Harbold stepped to the plate for the Trojans. Harbold scorched a liner down the right field line, which looked to be at least a 2 RBI double. This time, however, the wind played into Garaway’s favor. The further the ball traveled the more it curved. Eventually the shot landed inches foul. After the scare, Luneborg struck Harbold out. The Trojans were still in business though, as Cheyenne McMullen drew a two out walk to load the bases. Luneborg avoided further trouble thanks to her battery mate Hannah Halstead. Halstead caught McMullen leaning too far off first base and picked her off to end the inning.
In the bottom of the second, Halstead drew a one out walk while Luneborg followed with a single. Smith stopped the Pirate rally attempt with two quick strike outs to end the inning.
The Trojans picked up a hit in the third from Leah Kellish, but were unable to move her any further. That would be the last Trojan to reach base.
The game turned to Garaway’s favor in the bottom half of the third. Sierra Slentz started off the inning with a walk. Chelsi Rothacher moved Slentz over to second with a sacrifice bunt. A walk to Johnson and an infield single by Kaitlyn Stress loaded the bases for Garaway. Kassidy Reidenbach wasted no time at the plate, drilling the first pitch down the left field line for a bases clearing double. Smith worked out of the inning, but Reidenbach had lit the fuse for the Pirates, putting Garaway up 3-0.
In the top of the fourth, Zoe Johnson proved she had shaken off the after effects of her attempt to play soccer with a softball. The Pirate shortstop fielded three consecutive grounders as the Trojans went down in order.
The bottom of the fourth started well for Newcomerstown as Smith struck out the lead-off batter. From that moment on, the Pirates showed why they are at the top of the IVC conference.
Once again it was Slentz getting a rally started with a walk. Rothacher followed with a single, moving Slentz to third base. Rothacher stole second to move into scoring position. The next three Pirate batters all laid down perfect bunts for singles, each time scoring a runner from third base. Zoe Johnson beat out a beautiful bunt down the first base line to drive in Slentz. Stress poked a bunt over the pitchers head to bring in Rothacher. Reidenbach followed that off with another bunt single to score Johnson. The Pirates were now up 6-0. Halstead came close to bunting in another run, but the ball barely rolled foul. Down two strikes in the count, Halstead crushed a single to center field to put Garaway up 8-0. The single ended the night for Smith.
A pair of walks loaded the bases for Garaway. Newcomerstown picked up the second out of the inning forcing Kallie Regula at home. Down to the final out, Slentz came to the plate for the second time in the inning and delivered a knockout blow. Slentz creamed a double into the left field gap for 3 RBI’s.
Up 11-0, the Pirate outburst was still not over. Rothacher walked and then Johnson singled to drive in Slentz. Stress pounded a triple to bring home two more and the Pirates went on to win the game 14-0.
Allison Luneborg went the distance for the win tossing a two hitter for her 12th victory of the season.
The Pirates will host Newcomerstown again on Tuesday in the final IVC game of the year. A win will give Garaway their third consecutive conference championship. Tournament action continues on Wednesday in Sugarcreek. The Pirates will host Coshocton, who were 1-0 winners over Ridgewood.