Mike Peticca | The Gazette
VERMILION — Kelsie Shultz had just keyed the Buckeye softball team’s offense Monday in an 8-3 win over Vermilion in a LaGrange Division II Sectional championship.
She delivered three of the Bucks’ 11 hits, contributing to each of Buckeye’s three scoring innings, and drew a walk in her other plate appearance.
Shultz was happy to have helped the Bucks advance to a LaGrange District semifinal game Thursday against Clearview. The senior first baseman, though, also was relieved.
Leading off the top of the second inning, Shultz drilled a line drive up the middle, striking Vermilion sophomore pitcher Savanna Hitlan near the bridge of her nose.
“It definitely scared me,” Shultz said. “All I saw was her head go back, some blood and her drop (to the ground). At first, I thought she was unconscious and it really scared me.”
After being tended to for several minutes, Hitlan stood up and walked to the dugout under her own power.
“I felt a little better,” Shultz said. “I was told she was joking around and was probably going to be fine, but that’s something I’m still thinking about.”
Vermilion coach Roger Wright said after the game Hitlan had been taken to Community Health Partners Hospital in Lorain and was in good spirits. Hitlan’s mother, Katie, had just texted Wright, saying her daughter was waiting on ice cream.
Vermilion’s Becca Oates moved from first base to pitcher after Shultz’s single drove Hitlan from the game. Rachael Shaw followed with a single and, two outs later, the Bucks scored two runs when Erica Fauver’s infield popup wasn’t fielded for an error.
Senior right-hander Chrissy Nichols (5-6) pitched a complete game seven-hitter for the Bucks. She struck out eight and walked none. Nichols retired the first 10 hitters before yielding a run on three hits in the fourth inning.
After Buckeye had built its lead to 7-1, the Sailors got to Nichols for their two other runs on four hits in the sixth. Otherwise, Nichols had five 1-2-3 innings.
“I was throwing my curveball and they were swinging at it no matter what, high or low,” Nichols said. “I threw inside and outside fastballs. I threw changeups and a couple drop balls. I kept them off balance throughout the game.”
Buckeye tallied five runs in the fifth inning, getting consecutive one-out singles from Maggie Calame, Nichols and Shultz to load the bases, then benefiting from three Vermilion errors and Mary Spengler’s run-scoring single.
Nichols and Shultz laced back-to-back doubles in the sixth for the Bucks’ final run.
Buckeye hitters are locked in. The Bucks outscored Brookside 13-11 Friday in their sectional semifinal.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Buckeye coach Howie Calame said. “We expect our girls to get good at-bats and they usually do. One thing I’m not worried about is our hitting.”
Calame was also impressed by Nichols’ pitching.
“That’s a good hitting team and she held them down,” he said. “She threw strikes and had them swinging at a few that weren’t strikes. She stayed around the plate.”
Contact Mike Peticca at firstname.lastname@example.org.