A fast start was just what Cardington needed in their Division III softball regional semifinal contest against Milan Edison at Elida High School.
Playing as the road team in the neutral-site game, the Pirates opened the game with a triple by Dana Bertke. It didn’t take long for her to find her way to home plate, as the next batter, Mikayla Linkous cracked a hit that turned into a double, scoring Bertke. Linkous would also make it home when a wild pitch by Kira Appeman led to an errant throw to third base, allowing her to make the score 2-0.
“Putting pressure on the other team,” said Cardington coach Tod Brininger after his squad’s 4-0 victory that advances them to their fourth straight regional final in the past four softball seasons. We flipped the order around a little bit. We wanted Dana to see some more pitches and she came through with a triple and then Mikayla got a hit.”
Staked to a two-run lead, the Pirates relied on pitcher Genevieve Longsdorf to hold that advantage and the freshman was up to the task. While Edison had base-runners in each of the first four innings, none of them were able to make it past second base. During the game, Longsdorf had to deal with the umpires’ strict enforcement of an illegal pitch rule that hadn’t been called often in the regular season, but was able to work around those calls to consistently record outs.
“She’s stepping up,” said Brininger of his pitcher, who scattered three hits and three walks, while striking out six. “She was incredible tonight. There were 10 or 11 illegal pitch calls and that can get into a kid’s head, but it didn’t get into our freshman’s head.”
However, Appeman was also putting zeros on the board after that first inning. The Pirates had a threat in the second inning when a Chelsey Miller double and Ashlee Tharp single gave them runners on the corners with one out, but Edison was able to get out of the inning unscathed. The Milan junior then pitched three straight uneventful innings, but the sixth frame would be a different story.
Appeman would retire the first two Pirates, but Riley Burchett connected with a pitch and launched it over the center field wall for a solo home run. That hit was a welcome sight for Brininger, as she’d had towering blasts in both this game and the district semifinal contest with Worthington Christian go out of the park in foul territory.
“That was big for her confidence,” he said. “If she does that, it elevates everyone’s excitement level. That kid keeps stepping up.”
After Burchett’s homer, the team was able to keep it going. Miller drew a walk and a single by Emalee Artz put runners on first and second. Tharp then got her second hit of the day to bring in a run and boost the Pirate lead to a four-run margin.
That cushion would be more than enough for Longsdorf. After pitching a perfect fifth inning, she gave up a single in the sixth and a walk in the seventh, but those runners would not progress beyond first base.
Next up for the Pirates will be Sherwood Fairview on Saturday, also at Elida. Sherwood defeated Tontogany Otsego 9-0 in the first semifinal played Wednesday.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS