Western Reserve’s 2-out hits doom Seneca East

KENT – Seneca East starter Rachel Bauman allowed runs in two innings Thursday at the Division IV regional semifinal.

Each time, the Tigers starter was close – oh, so close – to getting out of the jams unscathed.

But Berlin Center Western Reserve used two-out hitting to plate all the runs it needed. It erased a 2-0 deficit with four runs in the third, added another two-out run in the fourth, then allowed its pitcher, Aleah Hughes, to do the rest in a 5-2 win.

The Blue Devils (21-2) advance to the regional final here Saturday. Seneca East’s season ends with a 17-11 record.

“I was very proud of the way we fought, and the way we stayed in the game,” said Seneca East coach Steve Coppes, whose team made its first regional appearance in program history. “We didn’t get rattled and kept it close.”

For a while, it appeared the Tigers wouldn’t have to settle for a well-played defeat.

In the top of the third inning with the game scoreless, C.J. Linkey reached first on an error by the Western Reserve shortstop. Mykayla Ruffing followed with a single. After Hughes struck out Hannah Martin, she faced Bauman, who ripped an RBI double to make it 1-0.

Paige Reichert followed by slapping a ball just over the the third baseman and shortstop’s gloves and right on the line for a single. That plated Ruffing and put the Tigers up by two.

“We got a couple of runs there,” Coppes said, “but we all knew two runs wasn’t going to win it. That pretty much woke (Western Reserve) up, I think.”

Bauman, who did not walk a batter in Friday’s district final win over Mansfield Christian, began the bottom of the third by walking Western Reserve No. 9 hitter Abby Hemphill. Bauman retired the next two batters, and faced Hughes with Hemphill on third.

Hughes clubbed a double to deep left to make it 2-1, then Marley Oles followed with another double to tie the game.

The Blue Devils weren’t finished. The next three hitters – Maddie Krietzburg, Alexis Lude and Alexis Miller all singled, driving in three more runs in the process.

“That’s been sort of a trademark for us this year,” Western Reserve coach Joe Serensky said. “Putting big innings together. We had that big inning there, and that’s key, because anytime a team comes out and puts two runs on you, the key for them is to stop us from scoring.”

The Blue Devils added another run in the fourth. Again, Hemphill walked to open the inning, and eventually scored on a two-out single by Hughes.

“They’re good hitters, and they got the hits when they needed them,” Coppes said.

Seneca East put some threats together after Western Reserve gained the lead. The Tigers left a runner at third in the fourth, and had two on in the fifth. But Hughes, who allowed just five hits over seven innings, shut the Tigers down.

Hughes struck out nine and walked three in improving to 11-2.

“She didn’t have her great command early on,” Serensky said. “She struggled some, but basically, she’s such a competitor, that if she does get runners on base, she doesn’t let them score very often.”

Bauman took the loss, but was tough. Over her six innings, she allowed 14 hits, but minimized the damage. She worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the fifth by recording her only two strikeouts of the day.

“She’s done that all year; she just doesn’t back down,” Coppes said.

Same, it seemed, for the Tigers.