Seneca East softball making first regional trip

SHELBY – Seneca East catcher Holly Bordner made the play of the game, the play of the season, the play of the tournament.

It may have been the best play in the Tigers’ program history.

Seneca East starter Rachel Bauman had been brilliant through five innings of her team’s Division IV district final in Shelby, shutting out Mansfield Christian on two hits. But in the sixth, her counterpart, Lexi Falde, opened the inning with a sharp single to center. Flames’s shortstop Aimee McPeek was up next, and attempted a sacrifice bunt. She fouled the attempt into the ground.

On the next pitch, she tried to bunt again.

This time, the ball flipped off her bat, first upward and then behind the plate.

SE catcher Holly Bordner snapped up, turned, took a few steps back and dove, just as the ball was about to hit the ground.

The ball fell into Bordner’s outstretched glove and stayed there.

In the scorebook, it went down as a foul out. To anyone watching, it went down as improbable.

“I was so excited, I just wanted to hug her after the catch,” Bauman said. “It was awesome.”

“The only time I’ve ever seen Bordner dive is when she tripped and fell,” Seneca East coach Steve Coppes said with a smile. “It was a surprise. We were all ‘Is that Holly?'”

“It’s kind of a natural reaction, you just kind of go for it,” Bordner said, “and hope it’s in your glove.”

Seneca East made numerous big plays in an error-free 1-0 win over Mansfield Christian. Each of them, had they not been made, could have changed the outcome.

But Seneca East made all the plays, and by doing so is moving on to next week’s regional tournament at Kent State. It is the program’s first appearance in regional play.

“(Seneca East) made incredible plays,” Flames coach Kelly Taylor said. “They left it all on the field.”

Aside from Bordner’s snag, two other plays proved crucial.

* In the top of the fifth, with the game scoreless, Mansfield Christian had a runner on first with two out and Charlinta Adkins at the plate. Adkins lined a ball toward the gap in left center, but Tiger centerfielder Cameil Ruffing ran the ball down to end the inning.

“Camiel’s been a great outfielder all year,” Coppes said. “Her shoulder’s been sore, and she was having trouble bunting and swinging the bat, so we didn’t have her hit today. I just told her to focus on defense today, and she … made a couple nice catches out there like you hope your senior will.”

* The final great defensive play was the one that ended the game. Bauman started the top of the seventh by allowing a base hit to the Flames’ Hope Dials, then watched as Dials stole second.

Quickly, Bauman was facing her toughest test of the day. But she said she wasn’t concerned.

“I wasn’t really nervous, because I knew our defense was solid this game,” she said. “So I just knew we could get an out. One-two-three is what I kept telling everybody in the dugout.”

Bauman responded to the threat by fanning Ni Virden and retiring Kilee Stoner on a bunt to third. Dials advanced to third, but two were out.

That brought up Adkins, who was 0 for 3. She slapped the ball up the middle, and it ricocheted off Bauman to third baseman Caitlin Sauers. Sauers’ whipped the ball to first to nip Adkins and end the game.

Coppes admitted he thought about going to the circle during the Flames’ final threat, but decided against it.

“They made me look good,” he said.

Bauman allowed seven hits while striking out three. She didn’t walk a batter or allow an extra-base hit.

“She definitely pitched the game of her life,” Coppes said.

Bauman didn’t go that far. She said she struggled with her command in pregame.

“(Coppes) kept telling me if I hit my spots, we’d win the game,” she said. “So that’s what my goal was the whole time.”

Bauman’s contributions to the win went beyond what she did in the circle. She had a single in each of her first two at-bats,

But her biggest plate appearance came in the fifth.

The Tigers put a couple of early threats together against Mansfield Christian starter Lexi Falde, but didn’t do any damage. By the fifth, they had stranded five runners.

With one out in the inning, Mikayla Ruffing walked. Hannah Martin then smacked a double to right center, chasing Ruffing to third.

That brought up Bauman, who lofted a fly ball to left, which easily scored Ruffing.

A few innings later, Seneca East was off to uncharted territory – regionals.

“I’ve been looking forward to this moment since about sophomore year,” said Bordner, a senior. “I’m glad we could finally reach our goal.”