History is made
FINDLAY The recipe for a softball victory doesn’t often include just two hits.
But mix in five walks and six errors by the opponent and makes it a little more palatable.
Add into it a heavy dose of Taylor Kirian and you have the makings of a celebration.
New Riegel used that combination to taste a Division IV district final victory against Mohawk, 5-2.
“It’s a great win. Any time you beat a team like Mohawk, who is always so well coached, it’s a great feeling and a great win. I knew our girls could do it,” New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger said. “I reminded them after the last game we played Mohawk that just because they have Mohawk on their shirts doesn’t mean they’re any different than us.”
The win moves New Riegel (22-7) on to the regional semifinals on Wednesday, back at Findlay High School, where it will face Rockford Parkway.
While Kirian (20-7) scattered five hits and a walk while striking out three, what she’ll be remembered for in the game is setting the Ohio High School Athletic Association single season record for home runs. The junior slugger smoked a 2-0 pitch over the left center fence to open the fifth inning and give New Riegel its final margin of the game. It was her 18th homer of the season, snapping the record set in 2010 by Buckeye Central’s Melissa Hoffbauer.
“It definitely feels great to do it in a game like this but every hit counts,” Kirian said. “I think this year I have more confidence, I’m a year older and when you have a great team behind you, you don’t feel as much pressure so it’s easier to hit them.”
Her coach said she’s a special athlete and is unsure why she’s not garnering more attention at the collegiate level.
“I was so happy for her. She’s such a good kid and a great talent,” Lininger said. “I still can’t believe that every Division I school around the country isn’t knocking on the door right now.”
Mohawk coach Jenny Weinandy said Kirian is a rare talent.
“She’s always been a great hitter. She’s done a great job on the mound and offensively. That’s nice to have on a team, when you have a pitcher that can pitch and hit (like that),” Weinandy said. “You don’t come across those pitcher-hitter combinations very much.”
While Mohawk pitcher Julie Adelsperger was dealing in the game, the defense was reeling behind her.
Three errors in the third and a passed ball allowed the Blue Jackets to go from down one to up 4-1 without so much as a hit.
“No I can’t (explain the defense). I think we’re strong defensively. I honestly don’t have words (for it),” Weinandy said. “It was just one of those games. One or two errors, that’s fine. We talk about adversity and how you’re going to handle those things but we never could come back from that.”
The lone hits in the game for New Riegel came off the bat of Kirian and a double by Lauren Zoeller in the sixth.
Lininger said the errors were unusual to see from Mohawk.
“You don’t see that very often out of them. I told the girls if we could limit our strikeouts, keep it around six or seven and just put the ball in play and we’d have a chance to win,” Lininger said.
Mohawk (23-5) threatened in the bottom of the fourth. MacKenzie Sowers singled and Hannah Kieffer reached on an error. After the second out, Allison Price singled to center, scoring Sowers. Kieffer tried to follow suit and was thrown out in a close play at the plate.
Clara Adelsperger, Kieffer and Cambria Kohlenberg had Mohawk’s other hits. Adelsperger’s hit in the first inning drove in Kohlenberg to start off the scoring.
“I thought we started out really good that first inning,” Weinandy said. “I knew New Riegel had a good hitting team and they hit and we couldn’t get our hits going.”
For Kirian, it was so much more than hitting a record-setting home run. It was about beating the Warriors.
“I’ve never beat (Julie Adelsperger) before. I’ve never beaten Mohawk before in high school so if feels great to finally beat them,” she said.
Lininger said his team in the 10 years he’s been at the helm has only beaten Mohawk once in the regular season but is undefeated against them in the tournament, going 3-0. The last win came in 2010 when New Riegel went all the way to the state tourney.
“I told them before the game that I’ve never lost a district final and I didn’t plan on starting today,” Lininger said.