Blue Jackets blast past Carey

KENTON – Want to stop Morgan Noftz?

Don’t make her angry.

New Riegel softball coach Jaime Lininger felt Noftz needed a little edge.

So he gave her one.

He told her that not everyone felt she was a first-team Midland Athletic League selection and some voted that way.

“I told her that there were two Carey girls voted on the first team all-MAL over her. I said ‘Go out there and set the stage for this game.’ I said it in a couple of choice words and [said to] show who deserves to be on the first team,” Lininger said. “Morgan plays better when she’s mad and I figured that would help things out.”

It worked. The senior was a triple short of the cycle Friday in an 8-2 beating of Carey in the Division IV district final at Kenton High School.

“We came ready to play and defensively, we were still solid tonight,” Carey coach Teresa Jacoby said. “We knew they were an aggressive hitting team and we came out ready tonight to play aggressive ball.”

Noftz scored New Riegel’s first run in the first inning after doubling to lead off the attack. She scored on Taylor Arbogast’s double.

Two innings later, Noftz opened the inning with a solo home run.

“Basically, Mr. Lininger came up and told me that those girls out there had higher awards in the MAL and don’t let that team think they’re better than you, and basically told me to show them what I got and show them I’m the better player,” Noftz said. “So I went out there and did my best.”

It started a four-run inning that saw Arbogast smoke a two-run homer two batters later. Lauren Zoeller singled in Kara Scherger to round out the third-inning scoring.

But Carey wasn’t ready to fold up shop. The Blue Devils (17-7) had four straight one-out singles by Taylor Fletcher, Hannah Draper, Dani Berardinelli-Clark and Ali Rymer, with the latter two driving in the former two, to make it a 5-2 game.

“The score never seems to bother the girls. They came out swinging away and got some runs in,” Jacoby said. “We left some runners on base and we couldn’t seem to get that key hit when we needed to stay alive.”

Carey threatened with two on and one out in the fifth, but couldn’t push anything across.

New Riegel (25-4) slammed the door in the bottom of the sixth with Taylor Kirian (24-4) slamming a three-run homer to left center.

Kirian took care of business on the mound with a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh to close out the game.

Ali Rymer (15-5) took the loss for the Blue Devils, who saw an 11-game winning streak come to an end with the defeat.

“It’s nice to come out and hit the ball like we’re capable of,” Lininger said of his team’s 13 hits, including six of the extra-base variety. “It’s always nice when the wind’s blowing out because we’re such an explosive team. You saw we had (three) home runs. It was what I expected. I also didn’t really want to play Carey because you don’t know what you’re going to get out of them. One day you run-rule them and the next day they’ll just fight and fight and fight. That’s just typical of Carey girls.”

There was no celebration. Just a few high fives like it was another regular season win.

“I said don’t be satisfied. I said we can win the whole thing. Let’s celebrate tonight and get back at it and see what we can do in regionals,” Lininger said. “I also told them last night that we’ve never lost a district final game since we’ve been coaching and I didn’t plan on doing it (now).”

The Blue Jackets are 5-0 in district finals under Lininger’s watch.

The regional trip is the second straight for the softball team and the fourth straight for a New Riegel girls sports team with volleyball and basketball also making a regional trip this school year.

The next stop is The Cube in Findlay, where the Blue Jackets will face Wayne Trace, who beat Hicksville 5-2 in the Bryan district final. The two clubs face off Wednesday at 5 p.m.