When Cardington met Utica in the 2018 district finals, it took eight innings for the Pirates to emerge victorious.
Going into the bottom of the fourth inning at Pickerington Central Saturday, it looked like the two teams would possibly battle into extra innings once again; however one huge inning changed that and led Cardington to a 12-2 win and the team’s fourth straight district title.
“I thought it’d be a close game,” said head coach Tod Brininger. “We were hitting the ball hard early in the game, but they made plays. In the fourth inning, we got a lot with two outs. We can explode. If we have runners on when Kierson (George) and the top of the order come around, it’s hard to get us off the plate.”
Cardington wound up with seven runs in the fourth inning to turn a 2-1 deficit into an 8-2 lead. Before that inning, neither team could find an advantage. Utica struck first with a run in the top of the third inning, but the Pirates worked out of a jam to minimize the damage done and then struck back in their half of the inning.
Reanna Roth opened the inning by drawing a walk and was then sacrificed to second by Taiylor Hubley. A passed ball moved Roth to third base for George, who drove her in with a single.
The Redskins struck back in the fourth inning, getting a solo home run to regain the advantage. That one-run lead would not hold up for long, though, as Pirate pitcher Casey Bertke hit a one-out homer in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game at two.
“After they hit a home run off me, I had to get it back,” said Bertke. “Just knowing we have such a great line-up through and through. I know we’ll get it back because we have such a great team behind me.”
Paige Clinger followed with a single and Hailee Edgell added a double to put runners on second and third. Utica would then record the inning’s second out to get one batter away from getting out of the inning.
It took a long time for that third out to be recorded. Hubley brought in one run with an infield hit to give Cardington their first lead of the game at 3-2. George then drew a walk to load the bases for Dana Bertke, who responded with a hit that drove in two runs. Baylee Adams then drove in two more with a double and Chelsey Miller made the score 8-2 with an RBI single.
After Casey Bertke worked around a walk in the fifth inning to prevent Utica from scoring any runs, the Pirates put the finishing touches on their opponents in their half of the inning.
With runners on first and third with one out, Cardington executed a double steal to record their ninth run. Hubley then hit a ground ball that wasn’t fielded cleanly, allowing another run to score. George then ended the game with a hard fly ball that just cleared the outfield fence for a two-run homer.
George was just happy to be a part of Cardington’s recent streak of success in softball.
“This is my third (district title) as a junior and for the seniors, this is all they’ve known,” she said. “I just hope to keep it going. I feel like we have great team chemistry. We are sisters. We may get into arguments, but we love each other no matter what.”
Winning by a 10-run margin over the third seed in the district gives Brininger a lot of confidence going into this week’s regional action, as he feels his squad can get big hits from anyone in the line-up.
“To do this going into regionals, if we keep this up, we’ll be in good shape,” he said. “It’s great — we’ve probably got three or four on the bench who’d play for most teams in the district.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS