July 1, 2016

Partly sunny

High school softball: Shultz pumps up Bucks with two homers

YORK TWP. — For the second day in a row, the Buckeye softball team’s game with Firelands was in question.

That, of course, meant the Bucks had the Falcons right where they wanted them.

A three-run sixth inning Tuesday lifted Buckeye to an 8-7 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win one day after a four-run fifth did the trick.

“Our team is really strong in spirit,” Bucks first baseman Kelsie Shultz said. “We didn’t get down. No one doubted each other.”

It was hard for Buckeye (4-6, 4-4) to have any reservations after the day Shultz had. The senior put the Bucks right back in it in the first inning with a two-run home run after the Falcons (4-7, 2-4) scored four times to open things.

Another two-run home run by Shultz made it a one-run deficit after five, so when the big bopper strolled to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with the bases loaded, there was little doubt she was going to come through again.

Rachael Shaw, who hit a three-run home run Monday, had just been hit by a pitch from Sam Hribel (1-3). With nowhere to put Shultz, Hribel caught too much of the plate and Shaw served a ball to center field to score Kayla Whitmer and Chrissy Nichols.

Instead of conceding the tying run, Firelands fired home in an attempt to get Nichols. Catcher Nicole Rainey cut the throw in front of the plate and fired to second in an attempt to get Shultz, but Rainey’s throw sailed into center field and Shaw scored the game-winning run.

So what was Shultz thinking as she sat in the box before concluding a six-RBI day?

“I don’t think at all when I’m up,” Shultz said. “When I think, I get bad hits, so I try not to. I was nervous, very nervous. It was relax and breathe and make contact. I was just happy I hit it.”

So was Whitmer (1-2), who picked up her first career victory. Though the freshman struggled out of the gate, she calmed down through the middle innings and really slammed the door in the seventh, sending Firelands down in order while striking out the final two batters.

“It’s easier to pitch when you have a lead,” she said. “You’re not stressed about it. It’s, ‘Let’s keep pitching well. Let’s not walk any people.’ I could rely on my team and my offense to score runs when I needed them.”

Scoring runs for the Bucks hasn’t been difficult this season, as they scored eight or more for the sixth time this season.

The front of the lineup came through again, as Nikki Koontz, Maggie Calame, Nichols, Shaw and Shultz accounted for eight of the team’s 10 hits and seven of its eight runs.

“We know we’re going to hit,” Bucks coach Howie Calame Jr. said. “We had Kelsie hit big time. We’re going to score five or six runs. Once they got a couple later on, it got interesting, but I knew we had the heart of our lineup coming up at least one more time and I was confident we were going to do something.”

Buckeye is on a three-game winning streak and looking to continue its good fortunes with a PAC game at Lutheran West on Thursday.

“This is big,” Calame said. “They’re a decent ball team. We had to fight for this one. We had to fight yesterday. Hopefully, we can build from here.”

Contact Brad Bournival at sports@medina-gazette.com.