ASHLAND — The next stop for Eastwood’s softball express is the state semifinals Friday at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
|Eastwood's Whitney Foster delivers a pitch earlier this season. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
The Eagles, 29-3, earned the Division III semifinal berth with an 11-6 win over Magnolia Sandy Valley Saturday afternoon in Ashland’s Brookside Park.
Eastwood, ranked No. 6 in the state, will play Carroll Bloom-Carroll at 10 a.m. Friday. Bloom-Carroll, ranked No. 1 in the state and 27-3, advanced with a 5-1 win over Chillicothe Zane Trace Saturday.
‘‘It’s really awesome for our group of seniors to lead the team in going there,’’ Eastwood senior Emily Helm said about going to the state tournament. ‘‘I don’t know how to express it in words ... It’s just amazing feeling ... It’s been our goal since freshman year.’’
‘‘It’s unbelievable, so crazy and awesome to be able to that with this group of girls,’’ Eastwood sophomore Krista Jennings said.
It’s the first time an Eastwood softball team has reached the state semifinals.
“It’s very exciting and emotional. I’m not a real emotional guy, but I am a little bit today,’’ said Joe Wyant, Eastwood’s head coach. ‘‘Our girls just didn’t give up. I’m proud of the way we played and they didn’t hang their heads after letting them come back.’’
Sandy Valley scored two runs in the top of the first inning on a home run by Chloe Otten. Otten swung on the first pitch she saw, after Morgan Dye had singled, and Otten hit the ball an estimated 250 feet over the right field wall.
Eastwood countered with six runs in the bottom of the first as Anna Rahrig hit a two-RBI single and Jennings, hit a two-out, two-RBI double. The Eagles sent 10 batters to the plate in the first and scored the six runs on only two hits. Eastwood was aided by walks to three of the first four batters in the inning and by two ground balls on which Sandy Valley could not get an out.
Jennings’ hit capped the six-run inning as she fouled off three pitches before hitting the seventh pitch of the at-bat for a ground-rule double to left field.
When asked what type of pitch she hit, Jennings said: ‘‘I don’t know. I saw it coming in and I was like I was going to hit that.
‘‘We never give up, we just bounce back ... We are never the team that gives up,’’ Jennings added. ‘‘Coach Wyant is always like ‘Never give up, you guys can do this, you can comeback.’ He’s really supportive.’’
The Cardinals scored a run in the second inning and then Abbie Hughes’ three-run home run to deep center field in the top of the fifth tied the game at 6-6.
‘‘When Sandy Valley came back and tied it up, we were a little nervous,’’ said Helm, who Wyant called the most improved player on the team this season. ‘‘We had confidence that we could come back. I have confidence in our team and in our defense that we could hold them.’’
Hughes retired 11 straight Eagles after Jennings’ double and before Cassidy Rolf’s double in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles regained the lead for good, scoring three times, all with two out. Diana Bushman had an RBI single in the sixth and the other two runs for the Eagles’ scored on a throwing error to make it 9-6.
Wyant was pleased the Eagles were able to capitalize with two outs. Sandy Valley center fielder, Steff Dye, went a long way into right-center and dived in an effort to catch Bushman’s hit, but the ball went off her glove, allowing Rolf to score.
Then two more runs scored when the Sandy Valley shortstop made a errant throw on Helm’s ground ball.
‘‘We had some nice hits in that inning,’’ Wyant said.
He also praised the play of Bushman, especially her work at first base.
‘‘We had a couple of bad throws and she made a couple of really nice plays,’’ Wyant said of Bushman, a senior. ‘‘She had a couple of hits and she had a really good game.’’
Eastwood added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning on Rolf’s two-run home run to left-center field
For the game, Rolf, Bushman and Rahrig each had two hits for the Eagles.
Whitney Foster improved to 24-3 with the win, allowing eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
“Our team works so well together, we just have that much confidence in each other ... We know one through nine, no matter who is up, everyone can hit and everyone can contribute,’’ Helm said. ‘We have confidence in everybody and that’s a good feeling to have.’’
Sandy Valley finished 22-8.
EASTWOOD 11, SANDY VALLEY 6
SANDY VALLEY 210 030 0—6 8 2
EASTWOOD 600 032 X—11 7 2
HITS — (SV) M. Dye 2, S. Dye, Otten, A. Hughes, D. Hughes, Hoffman, Petro; (E) Rolf 2, Bushman 2, Rahrig 2, Jennings. 2B — (E) Rolf, Jennings. HR — (SV) Otten, A. Hughes; (E) Rolf. RUNS — (SV) M. Dye 2, Otten 2, A. Hughes, D. Hughes; (E) Rolf 3, Albright 2, Shirling 2, Helm, Getz, Gabel, Bushman. RBI — (SV) A. Hughes 3, Otten; (E) Rolf 2, Rahrig 2, Jennings 2, Foster, Bushman. SAC — (SV) S. Dye, Hoffman, Petro, Russell. SB— (SV) Petro; (E) Shirling, Helm. HBP — (SV) Otten (by Foster); D. Hughes (by Foster). LOB — Sandy Valley 6. Eastwood 5.
IP H R ER BB SO
A. Hughes (LP, 20-8)
5 4 10 7 4 3
(A. Hughes pitched to one batter in the sixth)
Russell 2/3 3 1 1 0 0
A. Hughes 1/3 0 0 0 0 0
Foster (WP, 24-3) 7 8 6 5 1 3