By BRIAN LESTER
ELIDA — Katie Kurtz has been in pressure situations before, and she wasn’t about to let the moment at hand overwhelm her.
With two outs in the sixth inning, a runner on third and the score tied in a Division IV district softball semifinal against Continental on Tuesday, the Patrick Henry senior leaned on her experience one more time. She stepped to the plate and connected for her second hit of the game, this time driving in Alexis Miller with what proved to be the game-winning run in a 3-2 Patriots win at Dorothy Edwards Field.
Patrick Henry (19-3) will play in the district final at 5 p.m. Friday at Elida against the winner of today’s game between Van Buren and North Baltimore. Kurtz was thankful she was able to thrive under pressure to help her team keep its season alive.
“I always seem to get put in those situations where we have a runner on third and two outs,” Kurtz said. “I get nervous sometimes, but I knew my team needed a big hit. I had to relax and make contact.”
Kurtz not only delivered the clutch hit, she also turned in a complete game effort from the circle by retiring Continental in order in the top of the seventh.
Kurtz had her share of shaky moments earl from inside the pitching circle, giving up seven hits in the first three innings and allowing the Pirates (8-11) to take an early 2-0 lead with runs in the second and third innings.
She settled down over the next four innings, allowing only one hit and keeping the Pirates off the scoreboard. Kurtz, in only her second game back from an ankle injury, said her success was all about having the right mindset.
“I had to forget those early innings,” Kurtz said. “I had to collect myself and relax. I had gotten a little tense, but I settled down and it became a new game for me.”
Patrick Henry head coach Mike Meyer said he gave Kurtz a pep talk late in the game.
“I think the talk we had helped out,” Meyer said. “She was coming off an ankle injury where she missed three games, so she wasn’t sure about her confidence, but the adrenaline kicked in and she did a great job out there today.”
The Patriots struggled to get hits early against Continental pitcher Emma Recker, who struck out three batters in the first two innings and retired Patrick Henry in order in the third.
The Pirates did just enough offensively to capitalize on the effort. Alex Quigley ripped a base hit to left to put Continental in front 1-0 and a run-scoring double by Emily Logan in the third gave the Pirates a 2-0 advantage.
Kurtz led off the fifth with a single, and Natalie Herder doubled to drive in pinch-runner Larkin Holloway, cutting the Pirates’ lead to 2-1. Rachel Nye followed with a triple to the wall that drove in Herder and tied the game at 2-2.
Meyer knew his team was in good shape at that point.
“You could see that our emotion went from even keel to having more of a kick in their step,” he said. “I thought Continental played very hard and our players were feeling the pressure a bit. This was maybe a game we shouldn’t have won, but sometimes you need a little luck, and today we got it. We found a way.”
Kurtz didn’t allow a Pirate baserunner in the final two innings.
“We were up for the challenge,” Continental head coach Jordan Streicher said. “It’s a tough game to lose, but I’m happy with our effort. The girls played hard.”
Recker went the distance for the Pirates, allowing eight hits and striking out five. Quigley and Kiana Warnement tallied two hits apiece for the Pirates.
Kurtz and Herder came through with two hits apiece for the Patriots.
A year ago, Parkway eliminated Patrick Henry 10-0 in the district semifinal round. With momentum on their side this time, the Patriots are not ready for this postseason run to end.
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially for myself and the other seniors,” Kurtz said. “It feels great to be moving on, and hopefully we can come out and play our best on Friday.”
Continental 011 000 0 — 2 6 1
Patrick Henry 000 021 x — 3 9 3
WP — Kurtz (7-3). LP — Recker (7-9). top hitters: (Cont) Logan 2B, RBI; Warnement 2-1B; Quigley 2-1B, RBI. (PH) Nye 2B; Herder 2-1B< RBI.
records: Patrick Henry 19-3, Continental 8-11.