Unity, SJ-O softball make date
ST. JOSEPH — Maddie Routh understands. There’s a first time for everything.
Her time was Tuesday.
Routh’s first was a home run. Followed on her next at-bat by another.
“My first ones. Ever,” she said. “I had an inside-the-park one but not in high school. I never expected to hit two out back-to-back.”
Her power blasts — along with other shots from Unity teammates McKenzie Krutsinger and Madi Clark — sent the Rockets into Saturday’s championship game of the St. Joseph-Ogden Class 2A softball regional tournament. Unity will play the Spartans.
That will mean another first.
The area rivals — former conference foes and future conference foes — had their only regular season game canceled by weather 12 days ago.
Unity advanced with a 14-2 triumph against Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman. Clark’s three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth was a walkoff shot that concluded the game by the 10-run rule.
The state-ranked Spartans also had a shortened game. SJ-O topped Villa Grove/Heritage 14-0 on a three-hitter by Lexie Boaz, who walked no one and struck out no one.
Saturday’s championship game will start at 11 a.m. at Randy Wolken Field.
Unity 14, G-RF/Chrisman 2. The Rockets (17-14) pounded 12 hits in the first 12/3 innings. Routh and Gracie Schweighart each had three hits.
“We’ve been having morning hitting practice at 6 a.m. on the days of games,” Routh said, “and it has helped tremendously. Coach (Kelly Wedel) tells us to just hit base hits.”
Krutsinger crushed her team-leading sixth homer, a three-run shot in the first inning to break a 0-0 tie.
“We preach clutch hitting, and that first home run was with two outs,” Wedel said. “The last time we hit this well was in our first game. It has been kind of a roller coaster.”
Wedel liked Routh’s mind-set after collecting her first homer. She didn’t come back up swinging for the fences.
“She always goes up with the same approach, hit the ball hard and have a quality at-bat,” Wedel said.
Krutsinger (11-8) pitched a two-hitter. She struck out five and walked no one. Krutsinger also drove in five runs. She had two hits as did teammates Clark, Avery Tolliver, Taylor Stark and Shelby Hildreth.
The Buffaloes’ first run was scored on Leeann Conrad’s third-inning homer. Brittany Hay, who doubled and stole two bases, scored the second run for G-RF/Chrisman (14-17).
SJ-O 14, VG/Heritage 0. The Spartans (25-7) started strong against the Blue Devils and Micaela Childress, who threw in excess of 225 pitches a day earlier in the team’s 12-inning win against Westville. Allison Rose singled on the first pitch from Childress and Ashlynn McConaha doubled on the second pitch, giving Boaz (14-3) the only run she would need.
“If the first pitch is a good one, we try to hit it, but it has to be a good one in the zone we want,” Rose said. “I just try to start a spark. Get on and get around.”
The short-handed Spartans are without two regulars. Molly McElwee and Hannah Gawthorp suffered concussions in separate incidents in a Saturday game and will be sidelined this week.
In the absence of the infielders, who are among the team’s four captains, SJ-O coach Randy Wolken started freshmen at first base, second base and third base.
Despite the injuries, Wolken had no qualms about scheduling a nonconference game Monday and another (at home against Danville) for today.
“You can’t be worried about injuries,” he said. “Injuries can happen in practice.”
Though ninth-graders played a prominent role, Wolken said, “I don’t consider them freshmen anymore. They’re basically sophomores and ready to go.”
Rose and McConaha each had three hits and scored three runs apiece. Mady Poulter drove in three runs, and Andrea Coursey stole three bases.