In a preview of the first round of the Division III Central District playoffs, the Cardington softball team traveled to Mount Gilead and came away with a 19-1 win on Thursday for their second win over the Indians in as many days.
Both teams had threats in the first inning, but couldn’t convert. In the top of the first, with two outs, the Pirates got singles by Hailee Edgell, Genevieve Longsdorf and Mikayla Linkous, but left the bases loaded.
In their half of the inning, the Indians got a one-out double from Molly Murphy and then, with two outs, moved her to third on a single by Reza Benson. However, they would also be stranded to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0.
MG coach Dave Boggs noted that against a team like the Pirates, you simply can’t come up empty on scoring opportunities.
“With a team like Cardington, you’ve got to get ahead of them,” he said. “Once they get ahead of you, it’s trouble.”
Unfortunately for the Indians, that’s exactly what happened in the next inning. Emalee Artz led off with a single against Benson and Pirate pitcher Ashlee Tharp followed with a grounder that led to an errant throw, putting her on second and allowing Artz to cross the plate for the game’s first run.
A one-out groundout by Dana Bertke scored another run to make it 2-0. The third out of the inning would be elusive. Burchett doubled and scored on a single by Edgell, who would then score on a double by Longsdorf. After Linkous reached base on another hit, a single by Chelsey Miller brought in two to make it 6-0 in favor of the Pirates.
Cardington then put the game out of reach with an 11-run third inning in which they had 15 at bats. After their first two batters reached base, Bertke, Burchett and Edgell combined for four RBIs on three consecutive hits. Miller drove in two more with a single and Tharp, Kayleigh Ufferman and Bertke followed with three straight run-scoring singles. A two-run home run by Burchett then tallied two more runs to push the Pirate lead to 17-0.
They would add two more runs in the fourth inning on singles by Tharp and Cadie Long. While Tharp was able to hold MG to five hits in the game, she did have a bit of trouble in the fourth inning. McKennah Bump opened the inning with a single, but was retired when Hailee Field grounded into a fielder’s choice. However, Briana Zeger responded with a run-scoring double that sent Fields home and got the Indians on the board.
The team would have runners on the corners with two outs, but couldn’t strike for more offense. They would also get a pair of runners on in the fifth, but were unable to convert them into scores.
The two teams will meet for the third time in eight days on Wednesday at Cardington in the sectionals. Despite winning both regular season games by double-digit margins in five innings, Pirate coach Tod Brininger is not taking anything for granted.
“We’ll see these guys again next Wednesday,” he said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times.”
“We definitely know what to expect,” added Boggs. “They’re a great ball team. We’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”
Brininger’s team made the Final Four in three straight years from 2017-19 and was in the state championship the last two of those years. After a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he feels it’s important to get leadership from his players who’ve experienced those long postseason runs.
“We are relying on those guys,” he said. “The last couple times in the Final Four, I rostered 19 or 20 kids, so even if they didn’t play, they still experienced it.”