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Diamond Report

Division I regional softball final: All-around effort carries Amherst past Brecksville and to first trip to state tournament

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CLYDE — The Amherst Comets are blazing a trail all the way to Akron.

Behind the hitting of junior Madison Cruzado and senior Ashlee Dahman and a four-hit shutout by freshman Madison O’Berg, Amherst won the first regional title in school history Saturday, defeating Brecksville 3-0 in the Division I final at Clyde High School.

With the fifth-ranked Comets (25-5) holding on to 1-0 lead, Dahman led off the sixth inning with a triple off the wall in right-center.

Dahman’s school-record eighth triple of the year set the stage for an RBI single from Ashley Cogdell and an O’Berg double that drove in another run to give Amherst a three-run cushion going into the seventh.

“I was going up there to take a big hack and hopefully have a nice hit,” Dahman said. “I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do early in the game and I wanted to make something special happen today.”

The Comets will play Ashville Teays Valley in the state semifinal Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Firestone Stadium.

As if winning a regional championship wasn’t enough to celebrate, moments after the game Dahman traded her ball cap for a graduation cap and received her diploma at home plate from Amherst athletic director Casey Wolf. Brecksville’s four seniors also accepted their diplomas on the field after the game. The other two seniors on the Comets roster — Cogdell and Madyson Harris — chose to rush back to Amherst to take part in the school’s official graduation ceremony.

O’Berg might be years away from donning a cap and gown but she pitched like a veteran, holding a Brecksville team that had scored nine or more runs in three of its last six games to four hits — all singles. Only in the second inning did the Bees get more than one runner on base.

“I knew I had to throw outside and high,” O’Berg said. “We knew they had a lot of bunters so I wanted to keep everything high.

“I’m so proud of our team. Everybody played great today. They had my back. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It just feels crazy.”

Brecksville (19-12) lost in the regional finals for the third year in a row. Bees senior pitcher Kelly Geringer had seven strikeouts to finish her career with 502.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Bees coach Rex Mack said. “We knew Amherst was a great team, they had a lot of kids coming back and Lacey (Reichert) is a great coach. I give them all the credit in the world and I’m extremely proud of my girls because at the start of the season no one, and I mean no one, thought we were going to go deep into the postseason.”

Amherst scored the first run in the fifth inning. Sophomore catcher Lauren Kachure led off with a single to right and advanced to second on a Kasey McGraw sacrifice bunt. Kachure scored on Cruzado’s second double of the afternoon, a two-out drive over the head of the center fielder.

The Bees, a former Southwestern Conference member with Amherst, defeated the Bees twice in two meetings a year ago.

“Last year when we played against Brecksville twice, I was hitting the pitches (Geringer) wanted me to hit,” Cruzado said. “Today I was looking for my pitch to capitalize and drive the ball. I didn’t let myself feel any pressure. I just looked at it like another

at-bat.”

The only time Kachure, who went 3-for-5 in the regional tournament, struggled Saturday was when she tried to describe her emotions after the game.

“I can’t even put my feelings into words right now,” she said. “That’s how happy I am. We’re going to state and this has never happened before in Amherst history. It’s just amazing.”

Saturday was the 13th shutout of the year for the Amherst pitching staff. The Comets will head to Akron with a seven-game winning streak.

“Those 12 girls in our dugout deserve everything they just got today,” Reichert said. “They have worked their tails off for this. Everybody just stepped up and did their job. We have great senior leadership and we have three or four juniors that have played in a lot of big games in other sports.

“They all really did a good job of staying calm and composed today. The character of these kids is off the charts on the field and in the classroom. They love each other, they pull for each other. There are no egos on this team, they just want to win for Amherst.”

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.

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