Westfield shuts down Tigers

SHELBY — Seneca East coach John Sauers said his team had been struggling to hit lately.

Facing a dominant pitcher like Erica Westfeld when she is on did not help things.

Westfield took a perfect game into the fifth inning, leading second-seeded Lucas to a 4-1 Division IV district semifinal win over the third-seeded Tigers Tuesday at Shelby.

“We have been hitting balls right at people and that is the game of softball sometimes,” Sauers said. “It happens. We beat Carey on a Friday night a couple weeks ago and since then, we have been pressing a bit.”

The Cubs improved to 15-6 overall and will face fourth-seeded Mohawk (17-7) at 5 p.m. Friday back at Shelby for the district championship. Seneca East fell to 12-8.

“(Facing Westfield) is tough and it is hard,” Sauers said. “Just like fielding is contagious, hitting is too. You get a kid that hits the ball well, it could lead to more. At the beginning of the season, we came out hitting the ball hotter than heck. I think we tailed off a bit lately.”

Lauren Sauers matched Westfield inning for inning for the better part of three innings. Sauer worked around a two-out triple from Westfield in the third inning to keep the game scoreless.

Then, the Cubs offense woke up.

Morgan Spitler and Alexa Fulk each singled in the fourth inning and each moved up a base on a wild pitch from Sauers. Mackenzie Wilburn then hit a ball to the left side of the infield, but it was misplayed, as Spitler scored. Gabby Smith then grounded out, but Fulk scored.

“It took us a while to get going,” Lucas coach Jim Rader said. “We got some timely hits. We did not have a lot of hits but it seemed like they always came at the right time.”

The Cubs got some insurance offense in the fifth inning. Qynn Baker singled to lead off the inning, but after a popout and groundout, Baker was at second for Spitler. The rest of the trip around the bases was much easier as Spitler blasted a home run, pushing the Lucas lead to 4-0.

“That was huge because I never felt comfortable with the fact we were playing Seneca East,” Rader said. “They won 12 ballgames and I knew we had to come up with more runs and we did. I felt more comfortable with four runs than the two runs.”

Meanwhile, Westfield did the rest of the work in the circle. She retired the first 13 batters she faced before Mallory Beamer singled in the fifth inning. Beamer reached third base, but was stranded when Westfield recorded one of her six strikeouts.

Seneca East batted better the third time through the lineup. In the sixth inning, Taylor Enders reached on a bunt single before Jessica Bowerman singled. Westfield though, bounced back with another strikeout before Sauers lined out to end the inning.

“When you get a game like this, you know the game can turn on one play,” coach Sauers said. “When you are struggling to score runs, it magnifies everything. We knew once they got a run or two on the board, it becomes a mental game with these young kids and they start pressing.”

The Tigers finally broke through for a run in the seventh inning. Brooke Enders and Beamer each singled and moved up a base on a groundout. Lexi Cheek’s groundout scored Enders before Bailey Hamilton reached on an infield single to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Taylor Enders. Westfield ended the game in emphatic fashion, striking out Enders.

Lauren Sauers allowed six hits, while striking out one for the Tigers.

“Lauren had been our horse all year,” her dad, John Sauers said. “We knew we were going to go as far as she could take us. She is really our one and only pitcher ready for varsity stuff. She has had a terrific year.”