Blue Jackets and Blue Devils to face off in district final

PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE New Riegel's Jordan Hohman makes contact with a pitch during the district seminfinal game against McComb in Findlay Wednesday.

FINDLAY — Things weren’t dire.

Not yet, anyway.

But after New Riegel committed a pair of errors in the fifth inning and McComb pushed across three runs, things weren’t looking good for the Blue Jackets.

Then again, maybe falling behind 5-2 was just what New Riegel needed in Wednesday’s Division IV district semifinal in Findlay.

“This is kind of the way we’ve been all year when we get down, which hasn’t really happened that often … probably three or four times,” Blue Jackets coach Jamie Lininger said. “But we seem to find a way to come back and win.”

“It has actually happened to us quite a bit where we’ve been down,” New Riegel first baseman Kaitlyn Kirian added, “and our team works really well together, so we are able to keep calm, and know that we need to start hitting.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

New Riegel’s Aubrey Bouillon opened the fifth with a stinging double to center starting a three-run inning that tied the game. Then, in the sixth, Bouillon hit an RBI single, and Kirian capped a huge day with a two-run base hit. It was part of a four-run inning that sent the Blue Jackets on to a 9-5 win.

The victory improved New Riegel to 22-3, and sent it to Friday’s finals against Carey, which topped Bluffton 8-3 in Wednesday’s first game.

Kirian finished the game 2 for 4 with a double and five RBIs.

The first baseman’s solid hitting seems to run in the family. Her sister, Taylor, starred at New Riegel before moving on to the University of Akron.

“She’s just a phenomenal hitter,” Lininger said of Kaitlyn. “She’s not the home run hitter her sister was, but, God, can she hit. I think she’s finally got some confidence in herself, knowing that ‘Hey, I’m pretty good at this game, too. I can play softball.’ She’s awfully good. You feel pretty confident with her up to the plate.”

McComb looked like it had confidence at the plate, too. Its first three hitters of the game singled of starter Kayleigh Lininger, and the Panthers loaded the bases with nobody out.

But the NR starter — as she did all day — minimized the damage. McComb’s Maddie Buck hit into a fielder’s choice to drive in a run, but then Lininger struck out the next batter and then induced a popup.

The Blue Jackets came right back in the home half of the first. Bouillon and Kristin Coleman each singled, then took second and third after a wild pitch and a stolen base by Coleman.

Kirian then grounded to the mound to score Bouillon, and Julia Reinhart hit a grounder to first to score Coleman.

McComb tied the score with a run in the third. Then in the fifth, took the lead with the help of some New Riegel miscues. After Shelby Steinbrook singled to start the inning, Shaye Hemminger lofted a fly ball to shallow right that the right fielder couldn’t handle, which put runners on first and second. Black then singled to left, loading the bases.

This time, the Panthers cashed in with a big inning. Maddie Amburgey ripped a two-run single, and Lauren Dishong followed with an RBI groundout.

Coach Lininger said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s execution.

“We’re not gonna win games, we’re not gonna win Friday doing that,” he said.

But New Riegel came right back.

“We started playing our game, and doing what we always work on,” Kirian said. “This is what we came for — to get this win.”

And once New Riegel tied it up, Kayleigh Lininger seemed to find another gear. She retired the last six batters, striking out two.

“I’m guessing she was probably a little nervous to begin with,” said coach Lininger, her father. “She pitched maybe one inning of our tournament game last year. This is really her first chance. She came out throwing strikes, but they were hitting her because she was putting the ball over the middle. It did look like she had a little different pop in her pitch in the last couple innings. That was good to see.”

Jenna Gabel added a two-out RBI single in the seventh for New Riegel.

McComb pitcher Shelby Steinbrook took the loss.

“Our girls came out, they were focused. We had a couple good days of practice leading into it,” said Panthers coach Troy Steinbrook, whose squad fell to 14-7. “Before the game, I was hoping that if we could get a bit of a lead, our girls could settle into the game. Unfortunately we haven’t had an opportunity to play in this type of venue on a continual basis like the New Riegels and Careys. They’ve always been a good regional team from that standpoint.”

In the first game, Carey got going early.

Very early.

Five of the Blue Devils’ first six hitters reached, with Hannah Lonsway and Kenzie Row driving in runs with base hits. Carey also scored runs on an error and a passed ball, part of a five-run start that propelled it to victory.

Arlington fell to 20-2 this season.

Both losses came to the Blue Devils.

“I think that first inning helped us a little bit, gave us a bit of a cushion,” Carey coach Teresa Gillig said. “It boosted their confidence a lot, and couldn’t have asked for a better game against them today.”

Bluffton scored single runs in the first two innings, but the Blue Devils came back with two runs in the third.

Lexia Clinger singled in a run for the Blue Devils in the third.

“It was a difficult one, but I’ll tell you, to get down 5-0 like that, we just kept battling, and we just couldn’t get that timely hit, or they made a timely play,” Bluffton coach Tony Rumer said. “We couldn’t overcome that 5-0.”

Blue Devils starter Bridget Mullholand had a good deal to do with that. She gave up one earned run on five hits, striking out four.

“Bridget was on,” Gillig said.

So was the defense of third baseman Mary Racheter, who made a couple of stellar plays.

“At this point, that’s what you have to have,” Gillig said.

The Blue Devils improved to 19-5.