Action packed, though little drama
NEW RIEGEL – There are many places a person can look to find inspiration. New Riegel softball coach Jamie Lininger apparently gets his inspiration from movies.
“Well, he told us yesterday that he watched ‘We are Marshall,'” Morgan Noftz said after the team’s Division IV sectional final against Vanlue. “So he’s been giving us quotes from that to get us going.”
The Blue Jacket leadoff hitter was then asked for an example of what was said that fired up the team so much. The answer was a pause and giggle.
“I don’t even remember what he was saying to be quite honest with you,” she said.
Maybe the quotes weren’t particularly memorable, but whatever he said sure worked. The day couldn’t have gone better for the state’s No. 3 ranked team in Division IV according to Ohio coaches. The offense erupted and the pitching was un-hittable.
Vanlue needed to be perfect to upset the Blue Jackets. Instead, New Riegel’s Taylor Kirian and Elyssa Theis combined to throw a perfect game in a 22-0 victory.
Kirian threw the first three innings, striking out four. She left the circle after the third with her team holding a 1-0 lead. After the offense provided a bit of breathing room, scoring 15 in its half of the third, Theis entered to throw the final two innings, adding a strikeout.
Lininger later admitted it was tough to pull Kirian in the midst of a perfect game, but he saw the opportunity to give a young arm some valuable experience.
“That’s what I told her, ‘I hate to do that to you,’ but Taylor’s the type that knows there’s more important things to worry about,” Lininger said. “She knows we need to get our young pitcher some time, and this is the time to do that. Quite frankly, she really doesn’t care. All she cares about is that we win. So I hate to do that to her, but she knows we have other things to worry about.”
Meanwhile, the entire New Riegel lineup was swinging a hot bat. Eleven different players smacked hits in the game.
“That’s a good way to start the tournament for us,” Lininger said. “This last week we found our bats again, hitting the ball about the same way we were at the beginning of the season. We were in a little bit of a lull there for a while, lost a couple games. But we’re crushing the ball. Top to bottom, everyone’s hitting. I think it’s a good time to be doing that.”
It started in the first inning where the Blue Jackets loaded the bases and Hailey Theis chased in the game’s first run with an RBI single to center.
“Well (Lininger) just told us before the game that we need to start off this tournament right by just going at it and giving it our all,” Hailey Theis said. “So we just went out there and knew we had to just keep pounding them after we started and not let up.”
“Since we know it’s tournament time and we want to have a far run so I guess it’s time to crack down and get serious,” Noftz added “Everyone was contributing and hitting the ball.”
While the New Riegel offense was smacking the ball, it also benefited from some shaky Vanlue defense. The Wildcats committed eight errors, six of which came in the decisive third inning.
Kara Scherger reached base to start the inning and was driven home on a double by Lauren Zoeller. She came home two batters later on Leah Bouillon’s double.
Then things started to spiral out of control for Vanlue. Walks and errors mounted as Blue Jacket after Blue Jacket crossed home plate.
“The third inning it was 1-0, then they score a couple so its 3-0. OK, the kids were playing good,” Vanlue coach Ray Dickerhoof said. “But then we imploded. Our freshman at shortstop, and all of a sudden the ball comes shooting, and she’s not, maybe, not focused; I don’t know, but she was scared out of her gourd. She had six errors there so that’s why I finally had to move her out of that position.”
Scherger came up for her second at-bat of the inning and ripped a bases-loaded single, driving in two to up the lead to 9-0. That was far from the end of things.
Vanlue made four more errors and New Riegel scored seven more runs.
“When you hit the ball hard, things like that are going to happen,” Lininger said. “They had a couple; I thought Taylor hit one the girl got out of the way of. Quite frankly, I think I would have, too. When you hit the ball hard, it’s a contagious thing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a base hit, but that sound of the ball coming off that bat is a contagious thing, and we had everyone involved tonight.”
For good measure, New Riegel scored six more in the fourth inning to put an exclamation point on the day.
The Blue Jackets move on to the Division IV district semifinals at Kenton where they’ll meet Hardin Northern, a 3-0 victor Thursday over Ada, Tuesday at 5 p.m. weather permitting.
Vanlue closes it season with a 7-15 record. Dickerhoof won 300 games and a state title in nine years coaching Jeromesville Hillsdale. He’s looking to build up the Vanlue program and wants his players to look at New Riegel as an example of how to do it.
“I tried telling the kids, this is what they need to look at, how to play the gamer and how it’s supposed to be played,” he said.