Royals stay in hunt for NBC title share


BLOOMDALE — In its final season in the Northern Buckeye Conference, Elmwood softball remains in the hunt for a title share after defeating visiting Genoa, 4-2, Thursday.

Elmwood (16-7 overall, 10-3 NBC) now has to cheer for Genoa (9-4 NBC) to defeat Eastwood (11-2) on Monday while the Royals travel to Otsego (10-3).

If the Comets win Monday, the winner of the Elmwood-Otsego game will share the championship with Eastwood.

Ashland University-bound Elmwood pitcher Maddie Milligan says her team is looking forward to taking on the Knights with hopefully a championship on the line.

“Right now, they (Genoa) are (our friends),” Milligan said. “We must play our game. No one can beat us if we play our game.”

Elmwood first-year coach Emily Reynolds added, “I just wish them (Genoa) good luck on Monday, but at the end of the day we must take care of business at Otsego first.

“Our goal is Otsego and Otsego only, and at the end of the day, if they can knock Eastwood off, we’ll celebrate.”

Genoa was also in the hunt until losing to the Royals. It was the second straight elimination day for Genoa, which lost to Eastwood, 3-1, on a Delaney Maynard home run in the Division III district semifinals on Wednesday.

“Those can sting, especially when we were in both games, too,” Genoa coach Troy Susor said. “We played solid games. We just didn’t come through with key hits when we needed them. “

Against Elmwood, the Comets left seven runners stranded on base, but so did Elmwood.

“That’s the name of the game, you know,” Susor said. “You’ve got to get some timely hitting. Today we had runners on a lot of innings, we just couldn’t get them around.”

The first three innings looked promising for the Comets because Maddie Bronowski hit a two-run homer, scoring Natalie Hamilton, who reached on an infield hit.

Bronowski’s homer, which was hit into the wind and went 15 feet over the right center field wall, gave the Comets a 2-0 lead. For Bronowski, a Wheeling University commit, it was the second time she went deep in two days.

Meanwhile, Genoa pitcher Kaylin Shields pitched three innings of perfect baseball to start the game.

In the fourth, Elmwood junior Kate Keiffer bunted for a base hit providing the Royals’ first baserunner, which seemed to finally get the offense going.

“The last two times that we played them we haven’t been able to get bunts down, and we weren’t able to hit the ball either,” Reynolds said.

“Kate starting off that inning with a perfect bunt and getting on base, that just changed the momentum for us and then the girls just kept getting them down. When you put balls in play against any team you are going to get on base.”

Keiffer stole second and Mariela Garcia laid down a sacrifice bunt, sending Keiffer to third. Keiffer scored on a chopping base hit by Abigail Allison that bounced over third baseman Marin Butler’s head,

Allison went to second on a wild pitch and Milligan hit a line drive double along the left field line that reached the wall, scoring Allison to tie the game.

Trinity Sander drove in the winning run on an infield hit that also bounced over Butler’s head while she was moving in to play the ball, scoring Emaline Lee, who had reached third on a wild pitch after coming in as a courtesy runner for Milligan, the pitcher.

In the circle, Milligan put zeros on the board the rest of the way, earning the win. Milligan struck out 11, walked three, allowed six hits and two runs while throwing 123 pitches, including 73 for strikes and facing 30 batters.

Although she finished with double-digit strikeouts, Milligan said the key was allowing her defense perform its job.

“I just trusted my team with that aspect,” Milligan said. “They really have my back with everything, and I trust every single one of them.”

In the top of the seventh, Shields reached on a two-out line drive single to left field, bringing Bronowski to the plate for the potential tying run, but Milligan got her to hit into a fielder’s choice, ending the game.

“I was a little bit nervous. She is a great hitter, but my team had my back no matter what,” Milligan said.

Milligan also went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI, which she says is all due to the training she gets from Reynolds.

“My coach here, she’s taught me everything I know about hitting, so I really have to give that to her,” Milligan said.

The Royals got their fourth run when Garcia belted a fifth inning triple hit to center field, which scored Gracie Zeigler. Zeigler was courtesy running for Leah Allison, the catcher who reached after getting hit by a pitch.

The Royals laid down three sacrifice bunts — one each by Cara Frank, Kynzie Science and Garcia, and Sander also reached after getting hit by a pitch.

Bronowski had Genoa’s only extra base hit, and Shields, Butler, Victoria Plantz, Mya Colvin and Hamilton had base hits. Colvin had a stolen base.

A high-velocity pitcher, Shields took the loss, striking out seven, walking none, allowing six hits and four runs through six innings. She threw 74 pitches, including 50 strikes, while facing 26 batters.

“She’s been a bulldog for us all year. She pitched well,” Susor said. “When she really runs it up, she brings it in there pretty good.

“She keeps us in games, but we just didn’t put it together with the sticks and that gets you.”

Reynolds added, “She’s a great pitcher. She’s kept us off balance all year. We played them twice and we haven’t been able to hit her twice, so it was our day today.”

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