Bulldogs can't stall Charleston in sectional semifinal

Bulldogs can't stall Charleston in sectional semifinal

MOUNT ZION — Through two innings of Tuesday's Class 3A Mt. Zion Sectional semifinal between Mahomet-Seymour and Charleston, the third-seeded Bulldogs kept the No. 1 Trojans at bay.

It wasn't perfect, as Charleston swatters made plenty of good contact against M-S freshman Aubrie Shore in their first at-bats of the evening.

But the Bulldogs still held a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard.

"The vibe was phenomenal (at that point)," M-S coach Lisa Ayers said. "After we finished that first inning, I was like, 'Man, we showed up to play (Tuesday). This is going to be a really good game.'

"And then we just had a couple things not go our way."

Namely, Charleston began finding open grass and watched its starting pitcher discover a groove.

From there, it was a repeat of what happened in the year's previous two meetings between the Trojans and Bulldogs.

Sophomore Ramsey Armstrong smashed a third-inning homer and finished with four RBI, backing a three-hitter from sophomore Emily Price in the circle and keying Charleston to a 14-3 victory over M-S in six innings.

The Trojans (31-4) topped the Bulldogs (16-15) by 9-2 and 8-2 margins earlier this month. Even with that in mind, however, Charleston coach Blain Mayhall wasn't surprised with M-S drawing first blood on the playoff stage.

"We started a little bit late the last two times we played them, too," Mayhall said. "But we got (going) a little bit earlier (Tuesday). It's usually the fifth inning."

Mayhall's girls arguably were hitting the ball too soundly in this game's early stages — or perhaps just in the wrong spots.

M-S sophomore Ashley Wheeler made a nifty stab at third base on a hot shot from sophomore Mya McElravy to end the top of the first inning. Senior Madi Scott speared a sinking liner off Armstrong's bat to open the second frame, with Scott leaving her feet to make the snag.

In between, M-S junior Allison Nofziger tallied the contest's first run by rushing home from third when first baseman McElravy threw away the ball trying to catch Nofziger leaning the wrong way.

From there, however, the Bulldogs piled up six errors and watched the Trojans net at least three runs in each of the last four innings.

"When I talk about the girls, we have a young team and emphasize mental toughness," Ayers said. "And they showed a lack of mental toughness (Tuesday). We couldn't find our way to get ourselves out of that."

Shore paced M-S' offense in the setback, smacking a two-run single in the fifth to pull the Bulldogs within six. Charleston responded with five more markers to put the tilt out of reach.

Despite falling short against a foe that, at one time, was Class 3A's top-rated program by MaxPreps, Ayers felt there was plenty of good to take away from M-S' postseason run lasting into the sectional round — especially with just two seniors departing.

"It did a lot," Ayers said. "It just showed them they can play at that level, and it gave them a taste of what it feels (like) ... to hopefully make them hungry again for that in the future."