The Cardington bats broke open a scoreless game with Lore City Buckeye Trail in the third inning of their Division III state semifinal contest on Friday and then keeping piling on runs in claiming a 10-0 win in five innings.
“It’s unbelievable,” said head coach Tod Brininger. “Last year, it was me and Alyson Adams here (after losing and we both talked about getting back. These guys put in a heck of a lot work to get here. The pressure here is five times the pressure of regionals.”
While the team was unable to score in the first two innings, there were encouraging signs, particularly in the second frame. With one out in the second, Paige Clinger singled and was followed by Casey Bertke, who doubled to put runners on second and third. Ally Moore would draw a two-out walk to load the bases, but Buckeye Trail pitcher Hannah Smith was able to get out of the inning unscathed.
“We were hitting it hard in the first and second innings,” said senior Brooklyn Whitt. “So we knew we would get hits.”
Cardington began to get big hits in the third inning, when they tallied their first three scores. Baylee Adams drew a one-out walk. Chelsey Miller then hit a grounder that was misplayed by the shortstop to put runners on second and third for the second straight inning.
This time, the Pirates would capitalize. Rylie Partlow brought in one run with a bunt single. Smith would get the second out via strikeout, but Bertke added two more runs on a single to give Cardington a 3-0 lead.
After that, the flood gates opened. In the fourth inning, Whitt doubled, stole third base and scored on a groundout by Kierson George. Adams drew another walk, but Miller popped up for the second out. Once again, the team would score multiple runs with two outs, as Partlow drove in Adams with a triple and Clinger scored Partlow with a single.
“How many times have we gone in the cage and it’s this count or that count?” said Brininger. “They spend pitches and pitches bunting the ball and doing things with the bat. We’ve had a lot of two-out runs this year. When the energy gets going, it gets contagious.”
Over in the other dugout, Buckeye Trail coach Staci Smith noted it was frustrating trying to get out of innings against the Cardington bats.
“We knew they were aggressive with the sticks,” she said. “We weren’t missing spots. Wherever we put it, they were hitting. My pitcher averages eight or nine strikeouts per game and had one tonight and that’s completely different from what we’re used to seeing.”
Partlow noted that the Pirates look to put up offense whenever they come up to the plate.
“I think we have a strong approach coming up to the plate,” she said. “We take great cuts and that leads to us knocking the crap out of the ball.”
That would continue in the fifth inning, when the team ended the game and Buckeye Trail’s season with a four-run outburst — all coming with two outs.
Moore opened the frame with a double, but Smith was able to get Whitt and George via fly balls. However, Adams responded with a two-run home run to make the score 8-0. Miller then singled and Partlow drew a walk. Clinger then finished the game by smashing a two-run double to score both baserunners and advance the Pirates to Saturday’s state championship contest with Warren Champion.
Playing a big role in that win was the efforts of Bertke on the mound, as well as the defense behind her. The sophomore pitcher scattered three singles, while striking out two; while the Pirate defense made several plays.
“I thought she hit her spots, but more important, their outfield,” said Smith. “We had good hits and they cleaned them up.”
Brininger agreed with that assessment. “Our outfield is one of the fastest outfields around,” he said. “Our infield has stellar players and they picked it up.”
Offensively for the Pirates, who tallied 12 hits in the game, Clinger and Bertke both had a double and two singles. Adams added her home run, Partlow tallied a triple and both Whitt and Moore contributed two-base hits.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS