LaGRANGE TWP. — The postseason redemption tour rolled on for the sixth-seeded Buckeye softball team Thursday in a 4-2 LaGrange Division II District semifinal win over second-seeded Clearview.
For the second time since tournament play began last week, the Bucks (12-11) faced a team they had lost to in the regular season and ended that squad’s playoff hopes with a two-run win.
Last week it was Brookside, Thursday it was the Clippers (16-10), who had knocked off Buckeye 11-9 to begin the season April 2.
Fast forward seven weeks and this one was all Buckeye. And don’t think for a second the loss to start the season wasn’t a motivating factor.
“We wanted it a lot,” sophomore Mary Spengler said. “We knew we lost earlier, but we knew we could beat this pitcher and this team. We hit very well at the beginning of the season. We just didn’t win.”
Spengler didn’t get a hit against Clearview, but the left fielder was proof of how much the Bucks wanted the game, sprawling out on a hard-hit ball by Chania Sturgill to make an incredible catch in the fourth. Catcher Chessa Grzincic made a diving catch on a foul ball in the same inning.
When Spengler came in to play third in the fifth and dove to tag out Casey Jasinski to end the frame, those in attendance could tell this one meant just a little more to Buckeye.
“It helped because you want to push forward,” senior Chrissy Nichols said. “You want to go forward. You’ve lost before, but you go out there and prove that you can win.”
No one proved that more than Nichols, who had an incredible all-around day. She erased a one-run deficit with a two-out, two-run single off Sarah Kaya (16-8) in the third inning, scoring Erica Fauver and Nikki Koontz. Nichols added to Buckeye’s one-run lead with a two-out, two-run homer to right-center in the seventh inning to account for all of the Bucks’ RBIs.
For good measure, she picked up her third save of the season with three innings of three-hit, three-strikeout ball while allowing one earned run.
Clearview looked like it was going to make a game of it when it scored a run and put runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Nichols struck out Elizabeth Janis to end the threat.
That was a reoccurring theme for starter Maggie Calame (6-2) and Nichols, as the tandem put runners on base but held the damage to a minimum with some smart pitching. Clearview was 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and never really found that timely hit to get things rolling.
In the third inning, the Clippers loaded the bases with no outs, but didn’t score. In the sixth, they had a runner on third with no outs and came up empty again.
“We had our chances,” Clearview coach Denny Myers said. “Give Buckeye credit. They made the plays when they needed to and got the big hits. We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it. We had bases loaded with no one out and couldn’t get anyone in. That’s part of the game.”
The Bucks will play top-seeded Keystone (26-3) today in their first district final since 2010. The Wildcats, who downed fourth-seeded Cloverleaf 7-5 in the other semifinal, beat Buckeye twice this season (14-3 in 7 innings, 10-0 in 5).
“We need to play our best game,” Bucks coach Howie Calame said. “If we do that, who knows what’s going to happen? We’re two sets of high school girls playing softball. We’re going to come out and have fun and see what happens.”
Maggie Calame (6-2) will get the nod for the Bucks, while Lauren Shaw (15-3) or Emily Cornish (11-0) will go for Keystone. The Wildcats will be trying to win a district title for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons.
“Our mindset every game is we’re playing in a state championship game,” Keystone coach Jim Piazza said. “We don’t look at the opponent. … We look at what we need to accomplish as a team. We’re not overlooking anyone until we get the last out in the state championship game and win.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
Buckeye 4, Clearview 2
LaGrange Division II District Semifinal
Buckeye (12-11) Clearview (16-10)
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Koontz cf 3 2 1 0 Kincer 3b 4 0 1 0
Calame 4 0 2 0 Jasinski lf 4 2 2 0
Nichols 3b 4 1 2 4 Kaya p 2 0 0 0
Shultz 1b 4 0 1 0 Stambol 2b 4 0 1 1
Shaw ss 3 0 0 0 Teleha 1b 4 0 2 1
Grzincic c 3 0 1 0 Janis c 4 0 0 0
Spengler lf 3 0 0 0 Roush dp 2 0 0 0
Fauver rf 3 1 1 0 Sturgill rf 2 0 0 0
Matris 2 0 0 0 Jackson ss 2 0 0 0
Whitmer ph 1 0 0 0 Isenberg ph 1 0 0 0
Cooper pr 0 0 0 0 Hawthrne pr 0 0 0 0
Totals 30 4 8 4 Totals 29 2 6 2
BUCKEYE 002 000 2 — 4 8 2
CLEARVIEW 100 000 1 — 2 6 2
E — Grzincic, Matris, Jasinski, Janis. LOB — Buckeye 6, Clearview 9. 2B — Kaya, Teleha. HR— Nichols (2). SB — Koontz, Shultz, Jasinski.
IP H R ER BB SO
Calame (W, 6-2) 4 3 1 1 2 4
Nichols (S, 2) 3 3 1 1 1 3
Kaya (L, 16-8) 7 8 4 4 0 10
WP — Nichols. PB — Janis. HBP — by Kaya (Koontz).