After his team’s tournament games in the Division III softball tournament, Cardington head coach Tod Brininger has frequently stressed his girls’ ability to overcome adversity.
Once again, that ability was put to the test Wednesday, as Coldwater took a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning in their regional semifinal game hosted by Findlay High School. Once again, the Pirates were able to respond, tallying six runs in the bottom of that inning and adding a pair of insurance scores in the third on their way to an 8-4 victory that sent them on to Saturday’s regional finals against Pemberville Eastwood, also at Findlay.
Brininger noted that his team simply wasn’t sharp in the early going, making mistakes that contributed to that early deficit.
“We just didn’t play well,” he said. “On the first batter, we threw the ball away. In the second inning, coach Allen (Adams) and I looked at each other and said that this seems familiar, down 4-0 in the regionals.”
However, Cardington’s game against Coldwater wouldn’t turn out like last year’s regional final against Milan Edison, regardless of how things looked at the beginning. Coldwater’s first two batters got on base and, just after the Pirates recorded their first out after foiling an attempt to steal second, Maura Hoying put the Cavaliers on the board with a run-scoring single.
Coldwater still led 1-0 going into the second inning after pitcher Maddie Steinke worked around a walk to Dakota Crum to record three outs. Initially, it looked like Casey Bertke would also have a routine inning, as she retired the first batters via ground balls. She also got Grace Bruns to hit the ball on the ground, but a fielding miscue allowed her to reach base. Bertke then walked Payton Welsch and then gave up a three-run blast to Carly Post.
While being in a 4-0 deficit wasn’t an ideal situation, Brininger noted that his team remained loose in the dugout.
“Right after the home run, someone cracked a joke and they were smiling and laughing,” he said.
For her part, Bertke felt that wet conditions caused by a rain shower just as the game started made things different for players on both teams — both fielding and pitching.
“It was pretty hard,” she said. “I was scared for a minute and hoping the rain would die down. I was having trouble gripping the ball.”
After Bertke got the final out of the inning, Cardington then came up with a well-timed burst of runs.
Rylie Partlow opened with a ground ball and reached base when the Coldwater defender couldn’t come up with the ball. Kierston George singled and Bayley Adams followed with a bunt single to load the bases with no one out. With Bertke at the plate, a wild pitch brought Cardington’s first run in and the freshman pitcher then followed with a two-run hit to make the score 4-3.
Steinke then walked Allie Moore, Brooklyn Whitt and Dakota Crum consecutively, with the free pass to Crum bringing in the tying run. The Coldwater pitcher then recorded two outs, but couldn’t get out of the inning, as a ground ball by Partlow went through the legs of the second baseman, bringing in two more scores and giving Cardington the lead.
“I was saying ‘Thank you, good job and thanks for having my back’, said Bertke of her reaction to that big inning. “I felt more relieved and the rain had stopped, so things were getting better and better.”
Over the rest of the game, Bertke only gave up three base-runners — one each in the third, fifth and seventh innings. Meanwhile, her team gave her two more runs in the third inning. After Adams reached base, Moore hit a single and the Cavaliers had issues throwing to the proper base as Cardington ran aggressively. In the confusion, Adams scored and Moore reached third. She would then come home on a groundout by Whitt.
“That’s what we try to do — put as much pressure on the defense as we can,” said Brininger. “We’re very aggressive and Saturday, we’ll have to be very aggressive.”
On Saturday, Brininger expects a tough match-up with an Eastwood team that exploded in the fifth inning against Colonel Crawford earlier in the day to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 12-3 victory.
“The next two practices will probably be our hardest of the year,” he said. “I’m going to ramp up the intensity the next couple days.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS