By Cort Reynolds
Ada Herald Writer
McGUFFEY - In a tense Div. IV sectional softball final at USV Monday evening, county rivals Ada and Hardin Northern locked horns in a pitcher's duel between sophomores Alexis Amburgey and Addy Bame.
Bame gave up two first inning runs then bore down to allow just one hit over the final six innings as the Lady Polar Bears held off their Hardin County foe, 3-2.
Leading off the top of the seventh, Bame walked Ashley Windle, who had knocked in both Lady Bulldog runs on a double. The drama heightened when she fell behind Alexis Gonzaga 2-0, but the hard-throwing Bame rallied to record a crucial strikeout on a 3-2 fast ball.
Yet Windle stole second on the 3-2 pitch to move into scoring position as the tying run. Bame got ahead of Kaylee Spangler on a 1-2 count and induced the left-handed swinger to hit a high pop-up to her for the second out.
Down to their last out, Ada shortstop Quinn High worked the count to 2-2 before Bame retired her with a called third strike on the outside corner to clinch the sectional title.
The Lady Bulldogs end up 5-14 while HN improves to 13-9 and advances to the Wapakoneta district to face Minster Wednesday, May 22 in the semifinals.
"Addy got stronger after the first inning," agreed HN head coach Jeff Hunt. "Once she gets in a groove she does a nice job. She can fire it and place it well. She has more strikeouts than innings pitched this year" (in about 110 innings ).
Bame struck out 10, walked four and gave up three hits to record the hard-fought victory.
"Bame overpowered us, when she needed it she could get an out," said Ada head coach Ken Jochims. "I knew runs would be at a premium. We didn't move some runners up and left people in scoring position."
Bame didn't have her best stuff early as her counterpart Amburgey started the game off with a single in the top of the first inning. After a strikeout, Kendra Paul drew a walk.
Bame recorded another whiff but then Windle walked into a fastball, timed it perfectly and crushed a bomb over the left fielder's head. Amburgey and Paul scored easily, and Windle rounded third trying to score on an inside-the-park homer.
However, she was out well before reaching home when Bame cut the ball off and made an accurate, short relay to junior catcher Lea Rowe, who tagged out the Ada backstop to end the inning and keep the deficit at 2-0.
"I thought maybe we could steal a run in the first inning," explained Jochims of waving Windle around. "I thought the shortstop kind of double-clutched and I decided to take a chance and get that third run, knowing we wouldn't have that many chances against Bame.
"But Bame cut it and made the play," he added.
Becky McElree hit a soft liner to lead off the bottom of the first, yet Ada first sacker Sam Wildman ranged to her right to make a nice back-handed stab. Mikayla Curtis walked and Molly Wilson hit a hard grounder up the middle.
High fielded it near second base, stepped on the bag and fired to first to finish a nice double play that ended the frame.
In the second, High drew a two-out walk but was called out stealing second on a close play as Rowe made a good throw.
In the bottom of the second, HN plated all of its runs. Rowe led off by slamming a long double to left-center field and Brianna Campbell entered to pinch-run for her. Bame walked.
Then came an unusual play. Hannah Fisher popped up a short bunt trying to sacrifice. Third baseman Paul charged in and dove for the low pop-up, but it went off the end of her glove and caromed into foul territory to load the bases with none out.
Senior first baseman London Crist hit a grounder to second base that drove in Campbell and moved the runners up in a key play as Tessa Coulson threw her out at first. Amburgey recorded the second out when she made a fine backhanded catch of a soft liner to her right.
Sophomore third sacker Shelby Schlatter then came through with what proved to the game-winning hit. She lined a single to right field that fell just in front of Trista Douce, who fielded it on a short hop. The clutch smash scored Bame and Fisher to put Northern on top, 3-2.
"That was a big hit by Shelby, I thought the right fielder might catch it," recalled Hunt.
McElree then grounded into a force play from Coulson to High to end the inning, but not before HN had taken the lead.
Bame retired Douce on a bunt to open the third. Amburgey pulled a hard liner off of Schlatter's glove at third, but the shortstop alertly fielded the ball and gunned down the Bulldog pitcher in a bang-bang play at first that appeared to be a tie. Ashley Sumner then popped out to second base.
In HN's turn at bat, Curtis was hit by a pitch, stole second and moved to third on a groundout to High. Amburgey reared back and got Rowe on a key strikeout, then retired Bame on a little dribbler up the line that Windle fielded and threw to Wildman to end the threat.
Paul sliced a solid single to right field to begin the fourth and swiped second base as Ada threatened to tie it. Wildman struck out and Windle went down on a grounder back to Bame that advanced Paul to third.
But Bame came up big by whiffing the dangerous Gonzaga on three pitches to strand the tying run 60 feet from home.
Crist lifted a long fly to right-center field in the bottom of the fourth, but Gonzaga ran it down. Brooklyn Watts whiffed and Fisher was retired on a grounder to Coulson.
Spangler drew a walk to open the fifth frame and Megan Simon came in to pinch run for her. High was called out on strikes and Douce also struck out when she fouled the ball off with two strikes trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
With Amburgey at bat, Simon stole second. But then the Bulldog pitcher grounded out to shortstop to leave another potential tying run in scoring position.
"Bame bent but she didn't break," said Jochims. "Give credit to her, she came up big when she had to. You have to tip your hat to her."
Schlatter grounded out Coulson to Wildman to open the home half of the fifth. McElree lined a shot into the right-center field gap, yet Gonzaga ran it down for a nice catch. Curtis then smacked a line drive right to Coulson to end the inning.
In a groove, Bame continued to cruise in the sixth. She got Sumner on a foul out just wide of third to Schlatter. Paul grounded back to Bame on a 1-2 pitch for the second out. Wildman then struck out on three pitches, with the final fastball a called strike.
In the bottom of the sixth, Wilson pulled a vicious liner that Paul snared on a nice reaction play. Amburgey whiffed Rowe again on three pitches and also struck out Bame to finish her outing with a flourish.
After Windle walked on five pitches to start the top of the seventh, Bame settled down and got Gonzaga with the critical 3-2 strikeout as Windle swiped second. After Spangler skied a high pop to Bame, the feisty High went down after a battle on another called third strike.
"I thought we needed more runs," admitted third-year Bear coach Hunt. "But it feels good to win and get into districts for the first time in a few years."
Ada first-year coach Ken Jochims was happy with his team's improvement over the season. "We caught the ball, didn't make any errors and made few mental mistakes. The last one and a half weeks we played up to the level I thought we could before the season.
"Amburgey pitched well, she threw outs all year," he continued. "She did a nice job and gave us a chance to win almost every game."
Both teams managed just three hits in the well-pitched contest. Amburgey struck out four and walked two. She gave up three earned runs and Bame allowed two earned runs. Four of Bame's 10 whiffs came on called third strikes.
Neither team committed an error in the cleanly-played game.
Ada lost to HN in the season opener 7-4 after scoring four runs in their last at bat, and their defense by season's end was much-improved from that contest.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Ada 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 3 0
HN 0 3 0 0 0 0 x 3 3 0