AKRON — For two innings Jonathan Alder starter Katelyn Perkins kept the defending Division II state champions off the base paths and thus off the scoreboard during a D-II state semifinal played at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
But the talented Lancers (31-1), who’ve lost just one game all season long changed all of that when they erupted for seven runs in the top of the third inning. They carried the momentum from that one big inning into another and rolled to a 14-6 victory and a return spot in the state title game.
“They are the defending state champion and they made the adjustments,” Alder coach Dave McGrew said. “They hit the ball, game plan and preparation by these (Alder) girls, they will tell you we were spot on. They just hit the ball, that’s what they do.”
Alder (22-5) started strong, scoring a run in the bottom of the first inning on a single by Kayla Fredendall (2 for 3, 3 runs) and an RBI single by Chloe Grove and appeared poised to challenge the defending champs. Perkins had settled in and breezed through the first two frames, but the pivotal third inning happened as Lakewood came through the lineup for the second time.
The inning started with Lakewood’s Megan Hitchcock flying out to rightfielder Rachel Dembek. But back-to-back singles got the Lancers started, an error by Alder’s Chloe Grove (1 for 4, 2 RBI) at third base allowed the first run of the inning to score. An avalanche of runs would soon follow.
Courtney Viestra collected a 2-run double, Tigan Braskie had an RBI single, other run-scoring hits were delivered by Hitchcock and Emily Wallace, when the dust settled the Pioneers were trailing 7-1 heading to the bottom of the third.
“I just think we told our kids that we’ve got to start hitting the ball,” Lakewood coach Criss Nadolson said. “We had a lot of hard hits in that game. We got things started and it went from there.”
Not willing to quit, Alder fought its way to two runs in the bottom of the frame. Walks to Fredendall and Emily Walker (1 for 1, 1 run, 1 RBI), a flyout by Jillian Jakse and a fielder’s choice advanced runners to second and third and they scored on an error off the bat of Grove, making it 7-3.
Alder was able to hit Viestra, something not many teams have been able to do against the All-Ohio standout.
“We’re a good hitting team and we knew we could hit her,” Fredendall said of the Lakewood ace.
The emotional hurdle of having to overcome the opposing team scoring seven runs in an inning is something that Alder tried its best to overcome.
“Obviously it’s depressing when you see that many runs up,” Grove said. “But this team has been known to battle back all year long. After how this team played against Granville and this whole tournament run, I knew we’d keep fighting.”
Just when it seemed like the game could be a close affair, Lakewood followed up with five more runs in the top of the fourth. Alder answered with a pair of its own in the bottom of the fourth, scoring on a double by Angela Brandel, a single by Cierra Clark and RBI single by Walker.
With the win Lakewood advances to the D-II state championship game Saturday where it will play either Akron Hoban or LaGrange Keystone.
As for the Pioneers, with just three seniors and a whole host of youngsters scheduled to return, the future appears to be quite bright.
“We came out and we made them work that’s what we wanted to do,” McGrew said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. We have 10 first-year varsity letterwinners on this team. We came out and played hard, it just didn’t go our way today.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.