RICHMOND - The Indian Creek softball team was crowned sectional champions for the first time Thursday under the guidance of head coach Angela Penner. The Redskins triumphed over Buckeye Local 10-7 at the Richmond/Edison Athletic Complex at Jefferson Lake State Park to achieve the feat.
"This is just great," Penner beamed. "It's something we haven't done in my tenure. But so much of our credit needs to go to our two seniors, Ashley Shimko and Ashley Starr, who continued to provide leadership for this team.
"And Coach (Joe) Soos put a good team on the field for Buckeye Local. It was a good game.
"Everything started with our football team. Coach (Andrew) Conner lined the students up in a tunnel to give our girls encouragement. The girls just carried that emotion to the field."
Indian Creek will now face Dover at 5 p.m. Tuesday at River View High School in the first round of Division II district play.
Indian Creek's runs didn't come easily. The Panthers were the first to pounce. Soos' squad jumped on Indian Creek's senior pitcher Ashley Starr in the first inning.
Aliyah Marelli opened the contest with a free pass from Starr. Dana Bettineschi singled two batters later. A line drive into left-center field by Kierstyn Czuchran brought both past the plate. Czuchran's double followed by a Tori Nest single gave the Panthers an early 3-0.
Indian Creek immediately began to chip away at Buckeye Local's lead.
"We told them to keep working, and there are seven innings to a game," Penner said. "We tell them to keep pinching, scratching and fighting to get back. It was back and forth at the beginning. Our kids never quit. We played hard all seven innings. When we were down, our girls showed the ability to come back from a deficit. They hit the ball well."
Three singles allowed Indian Creek to add a tally to its half of the inning. Paige DeMattio's base hit brought Ashley Shimko home. In the second inning an error - the first of Buckeye Local's six in total - allowed another run to score for Indian Creek. The Redskins were down 3-2 after two innings.
"When you make mental errors like we did, you lose ball games," Soos said. "It's that simple. We hadn't lost for 28 days. Our defense has been pretty good during that time - especially the last five games. We made mistakes, and it definitely cost us. Indian Creek got it done, and we didn't."
Buckeye Local added a run in the third when Karlee Leonard singled, and Bettineschi raced home from second base.
The game broke open during Indian Creek's half of the third frame.
Starr singled as the inning's leadoff hitter. DeMattio drew a base on balls two batters later. Two consecutive errors by Buckeye Local allowed the runners to advance and one to score. Runners were on first and second base when Keasha Barz came to the plate. Both were cleared when Barz smacked a three-run home run over the left-center field fence.
"She a freshman who works on nothing but hitting 365 days out of the year," Penner said of Barz. "It was impressive, but this was truly a team effort."
Indian Creek's four-run inning in the third led into the team's three-run inning in the fourth.
All nine Redskins batters had their turn. An error in the outfield allowed two base runners to score for the Redskins. Another error allowed a third run. Indian Creek distanced itself with a 9-4 advantage.
Buckeye Local didn't back down. The Panthers were able to score a pair in the fifth inning. Much like the Panthers' fielding woes on the day, two errors by Indian Creek allowed two Buckeye Local runs to score. Buckeye Local had two more innings to score three runs. Those tallies never came.
Buckeye Local did score one more run on another Indian Creek error. Indian Creek, meanwhile, had another run in its bats - specifically the bat of Starr. Star finished the contest 4-for-4. During her final at-bat, Starr slammed a towering solo home run to dead center field.
Starr also pitched a complete game effort with seven strikeouts.
Buckeye Local finished its season 19-7. It was the last game for the team's five seniors: Bettineschi, Primovic, Nest, Sydney Omaits and Chelsee Verhovec.
"This game was important for our program," Soos mentioned. "We were going for our first sectional title in 21 years. At least we have an Ohio Valley Athletic Conference title to enjoy. That put us on the map a little bit. They've now learned how to win. And that means a lot.
"And our senior leadership was tremendous. We had a four-year starter at short stop (Bettineschi). Primovic pitched off and on the past four years. Tori was always solid behind the plate. Omaits had a solid year in right field. And Chelsee showed great support for her team and leadership qualities. We're going to miss them."
Indian Creek 10, Buckeye Local 7
Buckeye Local 301 020 0 - 7 10 6
Indian Creek 114 310 x - 10 10 4
BUCKEYE LOCAL (19-7): Starcher (LP, 2K, 2BB); Primovic (3IP) and Nest. Bettineschi 1B; Leonard HR, 1B, 2RBI; Czuchran 2B, 1B, 2RBI; Nest 1B, RBI; Swiger 1B; Decesare 2-1B; Omaits 1B.
INDIAN CREEK (19-7): Starr (WP, 7K, 4BB) and Orr. Shimko 1B; Starr HR, 3-1B, RBI; DeMattio 1B, RBI; Monroe 1B, Barz HR, 1B, RBI; Sullivan 1B.