VERMILION — Jessica Tucker said she treated Tuesday’s Division II sectional opener against Buckeye just as she would any other game.
Luckily for Vermilion, that meant she pitched lights out and took care of business at the plate.
Tucker pitched a complete-game four-hitter and drove in three runs as Vermilion defeated Buckeye 12-2 in five innings at Shelley Steele Field.
“Mentally, I approach every game the same, so today was no different,” Tucker said. “But I knew this was a special day for the seniors, their final game on this field, so I really wanted to do this for them.”
The Sailors (14-11) advanced to face Firelands today at 4:30 in South Amherst with a sectional championship on the line.
“Everything we do on this field is in honor of coach Steele,” Vermilion coach Roger Wright said. “We play hard, show great sportsmanship and give our maximum effort. We did all of those things today.”
The Sailors’ home field is named after Steele, a former Vermilion coach who died in 2003.
After a sloppy first inning in which each team scored two runs while also committing two errors, the Sailors broke the game open with six runs in the bottom half of the second.
Vermilion’s first eight batters reached base in the inning on five singles and three walks, two of which came with the bases loaded. The biggest hit of the inning was single to right field off the bat of catcher Leigh Stainbrook that scored Kate-Lynn Urgo and AuBree LaForce.
The bottom three hitters in the Vermilion order — Devon Davis, Ally Sheets and Sidney Virgin — started Vermilion’s second-inning rally with three straight singles.
“In the past few weeks, I’ve really been challenging the bottom of order to step up get things started for the girls at the top of the lineup and today they really stepped up and met the challenge,” Wright said.
The Bucks (7-13) made two more errors in the second inning and were never able to recover.
“We made a few mistakes today and we didn’t catch any breaks,” Buckeye coach Howard Calame said. “I had a lot of young girls out the field today. I only started three seniors. So I hope they learned today about the intensity of tournament softball.”
Both of the runs Tucker allowed in the first inning were unearned and the junior retired eight of the last 10 batters she faced while improving to 12-9.
“The best thing about Jessica is that she is resilient,” Wright said. “She never lets anything bother her. She never gets upset. Some pitchers come back to the dugout after a tough inning and are throwing the glove and getting mad. We’ve made a lot of mistakes on defense this year but Jessica is always right there supporting her teammates, trying to pick them up.”
Tucker singled in the first inning to drive in Urgo, who scored three runs. In the second inning, she drew a bases-loaded walk. Tucker also drove in the game’s final run with a fifth-inning ground ball.
Urgo, who will play college softball at Lake Erie College, also had two hits and a stolen base.
“We knew we had to come out strong from the first inning today,” Urgo said. “The seniors on the team still remember when Buckeye beat us two years ago and knocked us out of the tournament. I’m not sure if we were thinking revenge but we were thinking we’re not going to let that happen on our field.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.