FOSTORIA - It's simple math. Eight is more than two. So when the seventh inning came around and Hopewell-Loudon led Sandusky St. Mary 10-8 in their Division IV district semifinal at Fostoria, the Chieftains felt they'd be in better shape with a few more runs on the board.
"We came into the dugout and we said 'We need some insurance,'" Hopewell-Loudon's Racquel Hossler said. "So we all had the mindset we have to score some more and thats what we did."
Six more to be exact.
Hossler's two-run single highlighted a six-run seventh inning for the Chieftains. Lauren Trumpler, Aubrey Affholder and Makayla Wilson also drove in runs as Hopewell-Loudon's two-run lead ballooned to eight. Kelsey Coppus shut the door on the Panthers in the bottom of the inning to seal a 16-8 win, and a spot in Friday's district final for the Chieftains.
"I was definitely breathing a lot easier," Hopewell-Loudon coach Sarah Haynes said. "I try and smile quite a bit, but that wasn't forced, so that was nice."
The seventh inning outburst was the capstone to a day-long hit parade for the Chieftains. The team pounded out 20 hits on the afternoon with the production spread throughout the lineup. Trumpler, Abby Park and Makayla Wilson all had four-hit days. Eight of the nine hitters in the Chieftain lineup drove in runs.
"We knew to stay focused," Trumpler said of the team's mindset coming into the day. "We knew what kind of pitcher she was so we were ready."
"Everyone did great today," Hossler added. "Even the bottom of the lineup was getting hits every time they were up. It wasn't just one person, it was a full team effort."
Trumpler and Hossler are members of a senior class that made it to the district semifinal for the first time. It led to a bit of anxiousness on the ride over, but Hossler the said the team knew to stay focused and not let their emotions get the best of them.
"We were all very anxious. The whole bus ride that's all we were talking about," Hossler said. "We just knew we had to keep our composure and do the little things right. That's what helps you win the game."
In a game where hitting dominated, the first big play came on the defensive side. In the bottom of the first, St. Mary had runners on first and third with one out.
Danielle Parish went to steal second and Hossler fired the ball from behind the plate. But it didn't go to the base, it went to shortstop Trumpler who fired it back to Hossler when Hannah Snow took off from third to home. Snow was tagged out and Parish tried to advance to third. Hossler fired the ball to third baseman Wilson to tag out Parish and complete the double play.
The next inning, the bats got going.
Hopewell-Loudon put up three runs in the second and three more in the third. St. Mary finally got on the board with two in the bottom half of the third, but the Chieftains quickly responded.
Trumpler led off the top of the fourth with a base hit and was driven home on a Hossler double. Affholder singled home Hossler. Later that inning Shelbi Sauber drove in Park with a double to give the Chieftains a seemingly comfortable 9-2 lead.
But St. Mary came to life in the bottom of the frame. The Panthers pounded out six hits and took advantage of a couple Chieftain defensive lapses to score six runs to cut the lead to 9-8.
"Obviously I'm proud of the way the girls came back and made it a fight," St's. Mary's coach Julie Simon said. "We made it a ballgame. Regardless of what the score is, it was a great game. Lot of hits. great offensive duel for sure.
"Hopewell-Loudon is from top to bottom just a great hitting team. They're well coached, they're patient at the plate, they hit the ball hard."
Still, the Chieftains kept their confidence and kept St. Mary off the scoreboard the rest of the game.
"We knew we were all right," Trumpler said. "We knew our defense would get us through the game and we knew we could hit the ball."
The defense tightened up and Hopewell-Loudon got one of the runs back on a Trumpler RBI double in the fifth.
"The hardest thing as a coach is really to just kind of back off and let them know that's OK," Haynes said. "As long as you know what the mistake is and you can fix it, then it's done. Because, it's not something that you have control over anymore; it's in the past.
"I talked to the girls a little bit about momentum and how a lot of times you put a lot of hype on momentum, and the fact that you can make your own momentum. So even when people might think they gained the momentum swing, you can make your own and they certainly did. They came back up to bat and they made their own momentum and corrected some of those mental mistakes."
The Chieftains will be back in Fostoria Friday at 5 p.m. for a district final against the winner of today's Lakota-Fremont St. Joe contest.
For a group that previously never made it out of sectionals, it's exciting play for a district title.
"Super exciting," Trumpler corrected. "I've never been to district finals; it's a big deal."