Last year, the Cardington softball team saw its season ended by Liberty Union in a Tuesday Division III district semifinal game scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Olentangy High School.
One year later, the Pirates matched up again with Liberty Union in a Tuesday Division III district semifinal game scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at Olentangy High School. While the setting was the same, the results couldn’t have been much more different, as Cardington rallied from an early deficit to claim a 12-2 win in five innings to move on to the district finals.
“It was the same day, same time, same field, same everything,” said Pirate coach Tod Brininger. “We wanted to play these guys in the district again since a year ago, 10 minutes after that game.”
Cardington struck first, as Alyson Adams drove in Samantha Brininger with a first-inning single. However, the Lions were able to connect with a few Savannah Chalfant pitches in the second to take a 2-1 lead, as they picked up a solo home run from Kailey Bolinger to tie the score and then recorded a double and single, leading to another run eventually scoring on an error.
“They knew we were trying to get ahead in the count and put nice swings on balls in the strike zone,” said coach Brininger. “Our nerves got to us and we made a couple uncharacteristic plays for us in the field.”
That 2-1 lead held up until the bottom of the third inning when the Pirates simply exploded on offense. After pitching two solid innings, Taylor Azbell struggled to record outs. Brininger led off with a single and both Dakota Crum and Adams followed with infield hits to load the bases before a ground ball by Brooklyn Whitt tied the score at 2-2.
Azbell would induce a pair of pop-ups to get one out away from escaping the inning with only one run surrendered, but Allie Moore and Makenna McClure connected for back-to-back two-run singles to put their team in front 6-2.
“They all started rolling,” said coach Brininger. “From one to nine, we can hit…and we have our 10-11-12 girls who can hit if they get in. Once we get a four- or five-run lead with Savannah on the mound, we feel pretty comfortable.”
While the Pirate pitcher didn’t need any further help, as she pitched perfect innings in both the fourth and fifth frames to keep Liberty Union off the scoreboard, she got plenty. In the fourth inning, Whitt got another RBI, as she drove in Crum with a single. Then, in the fifth inning, another offensive explosion ended the contest.
With one out, Moore drew a walk and was driven in by a McClure double. Paige Clinger then singled to bring in McClure and make the score 9-2. Then, with two outs and runners on first and second, Adams singled to load the bases. Whitt followed with a hard fly ball that got past the LU left fielder to empty the bases and end the game with Cardington in front by 10 runs.
With the win, not only did the Pirates get revenge on the team that ended their season last year, but they also advanced to Friday’s district championship contest at Pickerington Central against West Jefferson.
“We’re not satisfied,” said coach Brininger. “When we met after the game last year and before this season, we were dedicated to getting out of the district.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS