MAUMEE — Lexi North threw seven innings of one-run ball Thursday and propelled Otsego softball to a Division III District Championship with a 2-1 win over Eastwood.
The win puts the Knights at 24-3 overall on the season and they will move on to play in regional semis next week. For Eastwood, their season ends with a record of 21-7.
“It was an incredible game, really proud of our captains, our seniors for stepping up and doing a nice job,” Otsego head coach Jason Colyer said. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially seeing each other for the third time. They know us and we know them, so I think it came down to a pitcher’s duel.”
That last statement couldn’t be truer as both offenses stuttered often in this one at the hands of the opposing pitchers.
For Otsego, it was North in the circle — as she has been all season.
The first five innings went smoothly for the junior as she pitched shutout ball giving up only four hits to the Eagle hitters. But in the sixth inning, North got in trouble.
Freshman Lily Escobedo and junior Kaitlyn Luidhardt led off the inning with back-to-back singles and the rally was on for the Eagles. North struck out the next batter and got Escobedo in a fielder’s choice at third for the second out.
Just as it seemed like the Knights might get out of trouble, sophomore Grace Kingery dropped in a bloop single to put the Eagles on the scoreboard down one. North got out of the inning on a ground out to senior shortstop Eve Serrato.
Despite the run scored, for Colyer and the Knights, getting out of a first and second and no outs situation with the lead was a win.
“Credit to Lexi, to working out of a jam there, runners on first and second, I think she lives for those kinds of moments. Nothing really phases her,” he said.
Freshman Cassie Kieper was in the circle for the Eagles, and despite giving up two runs early, she was able to keep Eastwood right in the thick of the game. That continued in the sixth as she put the Knights down relatively easy to keep the Eagles within one headed to the final inning.
After being swept by the Knights in the regular season, and both games ending in run rule victories for Otsego. Eastwood was right where they wanted to be, competing for a district championship in the seventh inning.
“That was our goal, to play tough and not be intimidated,” Eastwood head coach Joe Wyant said after the game. “We got eight hits off a good pitcher; we just didn’t get a clutch hit.”
North got the first two Eastwood batters but sophomore Delaney Maynard doubled one into left center and the Knights intentionally walked Escobedo to bring Luidhardt up with runners on first and second and two outs.
A long battle ensued and ended on a foul pop out to first base, giving Otsego a district championship.
“It was a lot of stress but at the same time I knew my team was behind me, so I was able to relax in that way,” North said of the final inning. “Having Summer behind the plate and having my team and coaches being able to calm me down, it was able to relieve the stress and we were able to get the job done.”
North finished the game with a line of seven innings, giving up one earned run on eight hits, eight strikeouts and a walk. Kieper finished the game going seven innings and giving up two earned runs on seven hits, four strikeouts and one walk.
At the plate, Otsego was led by senior Araha Burgy who went 2-for-3 and drove in both runs for the Knights. For Eastwood it was Kingery leading the way going 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Eagles graduate two seniors, Jaylee Souder and Maddie Pioterek.
“It was great for them (the seniors) to have the season they had. I didn’t know that we’d have 21 wins when we were done but we did and they did a good job as seniors,” Wyant said.
Otsego will now move on to the regional semifinals to play the winner of Fairview and Riverdale, who will play in their district final Friday. The regional semifinal matchup will be played Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Elida High School.
A game like this will certainly go a long way to prepare a Knights team that hasn’t had a ton of experience in close games this season, Colyer said.
“Looking at our schedule, we really haven’t played many close games like this. I think this only benefits us and gives them even more confidence to say hey we can score seven or eight runs but at the same time we can win a 2-1 ballgame too,” he said.