Coots, Columbian top Willard

Tornadoes leadoff hitter blasts home run, TC to make first district semifinal appearance in 17 years

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Columbian’s Kennedy Coots is greeted at home by her teammates after hitting a solo homer in the sixth inning of a Division II district quarterfinal against Willard in Tiffin.

Every time Willard tried to rally during Friday’s Division II district quarterfinal against Columbian, the Tornadoes answered.

And no one answered louder than Kennedy Coots.

The Tornadoes leadoff hitter made her biggest contribution to the team’s 6-4 win when she opened the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Flashes had just pushed across a run in the top the inning; Kalli Sowers brought the Flashes to within 4-3 with an RBI single.

But facing Willard pitcher Morgan Hamons, Coots provided some insurance. She clubbed a pitch over the left field fence for a home run, and Columbian led 5-3.

“I’ve never had a home run before, so it was cool,” the Tornadoes’ second baseman said. “When I rounded first base, that’s when I knew.”

It was the second time in the game the Tornadoes answered a Flashes’ run with one of their own.

“That’s production, and that’s what we talk about a lot, is just producing runs,” said Columbian coach Erica Dickman. “We were very high energy tonight, which helps.

The Tornadoes added another run in the inning — Autumn Sehlhorst made an astute slide around Willard catcher Jena Adams after an error — and the Tornadoes led by three going to the seventh.

But Willard didn’t fold.

Columbian starter Abby Chapman retired Elli White on a fly ball to left to start the seventh. But Madie Secor drew a walk. Cathern Hamons flied out, but Haylie Hamons — who already had doubled and hit a two-run homer — singled to put two on. Then Jena Adam ripped a single to center, scoring Secor.

The tying run was on first, the potential go-ahead run was at the plate in Makayla Schiffel.

But Chapman got the job done. She got Schiffel to ground out and end the game.

“This team right here is a fighting team, they fight to the bitter end,” said Willard coach Fred Mock. “Made things interesting at the end, and like I told them, we stung the ball hard all day. It’s a game of inches. We just hit the ball right at them. They made the plays.”

Chapman finished allowing eight hits in seven innings, striking out seven. All four runs were earned.

“She got ahead early, every batter she’s throwing first-pitch strikes, so that’s big,” Dickman said. “Get them in a hole right away.”

With the win, Columbian improved to 15-6. It advances to the district semifinals Tuesday against Mansfield Madison in Edison. The game is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Columbian will be playing in its first district semifinal in 17 years.

Coots was succinct when asked what the Tornadoes needed to do to keep the postseason run going.

“Keep the energy up, and everyone working as a team,” she said. “That’s all we’ve got to do.”

For Willard, Adams finished with three hits. Morgan Hamons took the loss. She allowed three runs in the first inning, allowing a two run single to Hunter Breidenbach.

But she ended throwing a complete game, allowing eight hits.

The Flashes dropped to 10-7.