A two-run seventh inning boosted Cardington past Johnstown by a 3-2 count in the Division III softball district finals Saturday at Pickerington Central.
After the Johnnies broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh to take a one-run lead, Cardington was down to their final three outs. Brooklyn Whitt opened the inning with a double, but Johnstown would then record two outs, with her only advancing to third in the process.
Makenna McClure came through with a run-scoring single, though. Rylie Partlow followed with a ground ball, but an errant throw to first kept the inning alive with runners on second and third. Bayley Adams then stepped up to the plate and drilled a ball into the outfield, scoring the winning run and giving the Pirates a dramatic win.
“That was something else,” said Cardington coach Tod Brininger. “It goes back to overcoming adversity. We had the bases loaded three times, but got no runs.”
For her part, Adams was confident enough coming to the plate to call her shot.
“We had a meeting at third base and I looked at coach Tod and said ‘I got this’,” the freshman said. “I don’t know — I’ve had clutch hits here and there, but this is the first time I’ve really felt it.”
Until that point, while both teams had several scoring opportunities, actually getting those runs proved to be more difficult. Cardington lit up the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning when Partlow drove in Alyson Adams with a single, but was unable to add to that total until the very end of the game.
Johnstown advanced a runner as far as third in the top of the second inning, but Casey Bertke was able to record a two-out strikeout to get out unscathed. Cardington then got Allie Moore and Whitt on base with one out in the bottom of the inning, but stranded both.
After an uneventful third inning, the Johnnies were able to get a pair of hits in the fourth to tie the score. They’d also get two on in the fifth, Cardington was able to prevent any more runs from scoring.
The Pirates had a golden opportunity to regain the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Partlow opened with a single and both Bayley Adams and Bertke reached via bunt singles to load the bases with nobody out. However, Johnstown was able to induce a hard line drive which they turned into a double play and then were able to get the third out with no damage done.
Bertke got the first two outs in the top of the seventh, but then gave up a double and RBI single, as Cardington fell into a 2-1 hole before managing to save their season with a clutch two-run inning.
For the Pirates, this is their second straight trip to regionals and third trip overall.
“This is the first time it’s been done in school history,” said Brininger. “They’ve won district back in the late 90s or early 2000s, but never won two in a row.”
The coach noted that prior experience has helped his team feel more comfortable in big-game situations.
“Last year, when we showed up at regionals, we were a little nervous,” he said. “Here, even in the seventh inning, we were loose. I’d rather not have games like this, but they’re confident in themselves.”
Alyson Adams, one of the team’s seniors, noted that the team wasn’t in the best mindset coming into their regional semifinal contest last year — a 4-0 loss to Milan Edison.
“Last year, I think we had a lot on our minds,” she said. “We were too cocky and didn’t play as well as we could.”
Brininger feels the experience of having competed at that level should come into play, noting he just wants his team to do what they’ve always done.
“We’re not going to change a whole lot,” he said. “Even the coaching staff was nervous last year. Wednesday, we’ll leave a little early, go up and eat and soak up the atmosphere.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS