By JAMIE BAKER
New Riegel’s softball team has been on a tear.
Mostly because it has been tearing the cover off of the ball all season long.
The Blue Jackets will be looking to extend their hard-hitting streak today as they’ll take on Wayne Trace in the Division IV regional tournament at 5 p.m. at the Marathon Diamonds.
Another area squad, Patrick Henry, will play in the other semifinal against Lakota at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The semifinals winners will be back in town at noon Saturday to play for the regional championship and a spot in the OHSAA Division IV state tournament in Akron.
New Riegel (25-4) enters the game on a 13-game winning streak and coach Jamie Lininger likes the way his team has been playing, particularly at the plate.
“I think when people watch us they are amazed at all of our players from the top of the lineup to the bottom that hit the ball hard,” said Lininger, who has led the Blue Jackets to a 208-89 record in 11 seasons as head coach. “They work on it, they have been trained on it since they were little and it started from there. I’m no hitting guru by any means. The kids work hard at it and they take a lot of pride in it too.”
University of Akron-bound Taylor Kirian swings the biggest bat in the New Riegel lineup. The Midland Athletic League Player of the Year is hitting .575 and was among the league’s leaders in RBIs (34), runs (43), hits (46) and doubles (12), according to the latest league stats release. She also has won 24 of the Blue Jackets’ 25 games in the pitcher’s circle.
New Riegel’s offensive prowess goes well beyond Kirian as six different players have homered this season for the Blue Jackets.
Teammates Kara Scherger (.458, 38 hits, 37 RBIs), Morgan Noftz (.402, 37 hits) and Lauren Zoeller (.440, 40 hits, 29 RBIs) are bashing the softball for New Riegel as well.
The Blue Jackets will face a team on a roll of its own in Wayne Trace.
The Raiders have won six straight games and enter the contest with a 20-7 mark. The two teams met in the 2010 regional finals as New Riegel scored a 3-0 win to secure a trip to the state tournament.
Wayne Trace has a few top-notch hitters of their own.
Emilie Linder is hitting .455 with four homers and 23 RBIs, Brenda Feasby (six doubles) and Libby Stabler (15 RBIs) are hitting .361 and .353 respectively for the Raiders.
Patrick Henry (20-3), meanwhile, struggled offensively in winning the district title last week at Elida, picking up 3-2 wins over Continental and Van Buren to advance to the regional tournament for the first time since 2008.
Pitching certainly hasn’t been a problem for the Patriots. Katie Kurtz had a strong outing in the district semifinal win over Continental. Top pitcher Alison Imbrock (12-0) beat Van Buren in her return from a bone bruise that sidelined her for a few weeks.
Veteran coach Mike Meyer’s Patriots showed some power potential of their own as Kristin Bostelman (.526) and talented freshman Natalie Herder (.538, 5 HRs this season) both homered against the Black Knights. Rachel Nye (.541) has also played a key role for Patrick Henry’s offense this season.
Lakota comes into the game with 19-7 record and is led by Aubrey Bickford (.486, 28 RBIs). Morgan Gangwer (.444, 26 RBIs) and Alaina Bickford (.462, 2 HRs, 22 RBIs) were also among the MAL’s top hitters. Gangwer is also 7-1 with a 2.24 ERA for the Raiders.
Two other area teams still have a shot at advancing to the OHSAA state tournament at Akron’s Firestone Stadium as Elmwood and Ottawa-Glandorf will play in today’s Division III regional semifinals.
The Royals (22-3) take on New London (20-5) in a 5 p.m. game at Fostoria High School while Ottawa-Glandorf (20-4) travels to Bellefontaine to take on defending state champion Bloom-Carroll at 5 p.m.
The winners meet Saturday at noon in the regional final at a site that will be determined by the OHSAA.
Elmwood got an outstanding game from pitcher Miranda Benschoter in Friday’s district final. She fired a three-hit shutout to lead the Royals to a 1-0 district final win over Archbold.
Senior Taylor Moody (.405, 21 RBIs) and Alex Bowers (.375, 25 RBIs) lead New London at the plate. Bowers is also the team’s top pitcher with 16 victories and a 1.41 ERA with 203 strikeouts. Bowers fanned 12 batters in New London’s 1-0 district final win over Bucyrus.
Ottawa-Glandorf, meanwhile, topped Fairview Friday 6-4 in nine innings to advance to regionals for the first time in school history.
The Titans will likely face one of the state’s top pitchers today in Bloom-Carroll’s Taran Alvelo. Alvelo, who has committed to play softball at Washington, fanned 17 batters and struck out the side five time in last week’s 7-0 district final win over Johnstown Monroe.
By JAMIE BAKER