AKRON — If they’re still partying in Columbia Township this morning, there’s a good reason.
Two clutch hits gave Columbia High the power it needed Friday to advance to a state championship game for the first time in any sport.
The fourth-ranked Raiders (29-4) were representing the school in a state semifinal for the first time when they scored a 3-1 victory over Columbus Bishop Ready. The margin was a pair of unearned runs in the fifth inning. But an unearned run, as they say, is a run nevertheless.
The victory puts two Lorain County schools in softball finals today at Akron Firestone Stadium. It is the fifth time in the last 10 seasons — and third year in a row — the county has placed two schools in a softball Final Four.
The fourth-ranked Raiders (29-4) will collide with top-ranked Bloom-Carroll (28-3) in the Division III title game at
4 p.m. The Bulldogs mercy-ruled Pemberville Eastwood 11-1 in Friday’s other semifinal.
At 10 a.m., third-ranked Elyria (27-5) will clash with North Canton Hoover (33-0), the top-ranked Division I team in Ohio and defending state champion.
Columbia’s first timely hit was courtesy of third baseman Amanda Sedlock, who was also a defensive star. Her fourth-inning double scored Christine Lyzen, who singled, with the Raiders’ first run.
“Hitting-wise and defensive-wise she came through and she played a real nice game for us today,” coach Ken Lugo said.
Sedlock saw the pitch she wanted for her big double.
“I took advantage of that and I just drove it,” Sedlock said. “It was inside and it might have been a screwball, but it looked perfect. I like those inside pitches.”
Then in the fifth, center fielder Kaley Marshall hit an RBI single, scoring shortstop Emily Viccarone. Viccarone had reached on a bunt single and raced around to third when the Bulldogs threw the ball into right field.
“You sometimes have those butterflies coming into a big game, but Lugo talked us through it,” she said. “At the plate, I saw Emily at third. I just kind of looked at Lugo and he gave me that ‘go-pitch, you got it’ look and it was just right down the middle so I took it.”
When Lyzen put the ball in play and the Bulldogs misplayed it again later in the inning, right fielder Nicolette Kunath ran home with the insurance run. Kunath had reached on a fielder’s choice.
Sophomore pitcher Kailey Minarchick pitched a six-hitter with three strikeouts for her 14th victory in 16 decisions. Lugo said he expects to start her in the circle again today.
“We didn’t really have a pitching plan, we just had to work around their batters,” Minarchick said. “My screwball worked and my fastball location.”
Columbia hitters made good contact throughout. The Raiders put the ball in play 17 times (out of 21 total outs) in addition to eight hits. Also, they hit 29 foul balls, meaning they hit the ball 54 times for the 114 total pitches they faced (47.4 percent).
“The game went by so fast today, I couldn’t believe it,” said Lugo, the Raiders’ first-year coach. “Everything was like a flash. It was a great victory. The girls buckled down when they needed to, they were working for outs after they went ahead and they came up with a victory.”
Marshall hit a single and double in three at-bats and first baseman Crystal Fetchet was 2-for-2, also a single and double.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.