New Riegel bested by Parkway

FINDLAY ? When a team loses, it often will talk about missed opportunities.

Parkway had plenty Wednesday night in the Division IV regional semifinal at Findlay High School.

The Panthers (21-5) stranded 11 runners, including consecutive innings of leaving the bases loaded.

But its foe, New Riegel, was doing much of the same, leaving nine ducks on the pond.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, the Panthers did a better job of chasing those birds from their roost, beating Parkway, 7-4.

“Our kids have to keep their heads up,” New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger said. “They fought and we got down 6-2. When you get down 6-2 against a good team like that, sometimes you’re going to pack it in but these guys didn’t. I’m going to say that’s the team going to state. It’s a really good team.”

Parkway coach Mark Esselstein said he was concerned stranding runners was going to cost the Panthers the game.

“(We) left bases loaded a few times, left a few runs out there,” he said. “New Riegel is a great offensive team. There’s any number of kids that can hit it out of the ballpark. So we wanted to get as many runs as we could.”

They didn’t.

New Riegel (22-8) struggled against Sierra Fent (15-3) in the first two innings as the junior hurler brought the heat, striking out three of the first six batters she faced.

Meanwhile, the Panthers hit Taylor Kirian (20-8) early before she got stronger later. The Panthers plated two in the first inning with Fent driving in Kayla Walls and coming around to score later on a missed ball at third.

But the Blue Jackets broke through in the third inning. Hailey Theis led off with a walk and scored three batters later when Cassandra Acree singled. Kirian was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Morgan Noftz singled to drive in Leah Bouillon, who had walked earlier in the frame.

The tie was shortlived as Parkway plated four in the bottom of the inning. The Panthers had five hits, including three doubles.

“That really hurt us. Our outfielders I think each one of them took a turn at running in on the ball but you’ll have that,” Lininger said. “That was a bad inning for us.”

The Blue Jackets continued to claw its way back, scoring a run in the fourth on a solo homer by Taylor Arbogast.

In the fifth, New Riegel scored again but it was almost not to be as Lindsey Walls nearly turned a triple play. With Kirian on second and Noftz on first, Kara Scherger ripped a rocket to Walls. She snagged the liner, stepped on second herself to double off Kirian and fired to first, barely missing getting Noftz out as well.

“I think it was a triple play if you watch the video,” Esselstein said.

Noftz stole second and came into score when Arbogast reached on an error.

Parkway loaded the bases in the fourth and fifth innings but couldn’t score.

New Riegel loaded the bases themselves in the top of the sixth with Kirian coming up to the plate.

“What more of an opportunity could you (have) than Taylor Kirian up with the bases loaded and one out. I’m thinking ‘Oh my God, we’re going to do this again,'” Lininger said.

Kirian grounded to third baseman Terra Walls, who threw home to force out Hailey Theis. Noftz then grounded out to second to end the threat.

“I didn’t like Kirian coming up bases loaded there and having to pitch to her,” Esselstein said.

Parkway picked up an insurance run in the sixth with a Terra Walls doubling in Lindsey Walls.

New Riegel had two on with two out in the seventh but couldn’t capitalize.

“I feel really good about the win today. The kids really stepped up and hit the ball. We had a lot of two-out, solid base hits,” Esselstein said. “Our defense didn’t make all the plays but they made them when they really counted.”

Kirian finished with seven strikeouts, a few of those coming on her offspeed pitch, which left Parkway batters waving wildly at some of her pitches.

“She really had it going tonight. She struggled with that at times but she really used it well,” Lininger said. “(Seven strikeouts) is a lot more than her average on the year and against a really good hitting team.”

Parkway moves on the regional final Saturday, where it will face the winner of Fremont St. Joe and Edgerton, who play today.