DANVILLE — The last time the Danville High School varsity softball team played in the postseason, it won a state title. So the expectations were high when the 2009 postseason began on Monday afternoon.
The Blue Devils didn’t miss a beat as they routed the Delaware Christian Eagles, 17-0, in a Division IV Central District Sectional game in Danville. Pitchers Hannah Matheny and Jennifer Mickley combined to no-hit the Eagles, while the offense took advantage of what it was given.
“A win is a win; we’ll take it,” said Danville coach Mike Beheler. “Every win is a step in the direction we want to go. We want to go as far as the tournament goes, and this was just the first step. ... Our pitching was good when we needed it. We got the job done.”
“We were ready to play,” said Danville catcher Kaleigh Conner. “We want to go far in the tournament like last year, but we can’t look ahead. There are good teams in this district. We just have to take it one game at a time.”
Matheny started and pitched the first three innings for Danville (7-11). She struck out four, but walked five. It didn’t matter, though, as she was staked to a 8-0 lead. Seven of those runs came in the first inning as Delaware Christian pitcher Jenna Malisrak walked the first three batters she faced. Matheny then hit a two-run single to plate Tracy Payne and Conner with the first two runs. A sacrifice by Ashlee Townsend loaded the bases again after it was misplayed by Malisrak, who walked in another run in the next at-bat.
Malisrak finally notched the first out on a strikeout, but a walk to Trisha Pattison brought in Matheny and kept the inning going. No. 9 hitter Molly Pugh hit an RBI groundout, to make it a 7-0 game after one inning.
Matheny struck out the side in order in the second inning, and the Eagles stranded a Danville base runner in the bottom of the inning, but Danville would not be denied. The Blue Devils put a run on the board in the bottom of the inning as Jessica Francis singled to lead off. Francis then stole second, and when the throw down went into center field, Francis moved up to third. She then raced home after the centerfielder misplayed the ball. Danville continued to threaten, loading the bases before the Eagles got out of the inning.
Beheler began to substitute his players in the bottom of the third, and only three starters remained in the game from that point on. Mickley came on to pitch and had little trouble. An initial flyout to center by Elizabeth Roden was the hardest hit ball of the game, but didn’t faze Mickley. She struck out the next two batters.
“The more playing time I can get the girls the better,” said Beheler. “We know as well as anyone, the later the tournament goes, the more experience you have to have. If you have to throw somebody in there, they have to step up and perform.”
As if the 8-0 lead wasn’t enough, the Blue Devils opened the flood gates in the bottom of the fourth. A hit batter and back-to-back walks loaded the bases before Shea Frazee singled to left, driving in Megan Iverson and Morgan Lauderbaugh. The ball was misplayed in left, however, and Francis came around to score with Frazee pulling into third. She came home after Pugh hit an RBI triple in the next at-bat, making it an 11-0 game.
Kaitlyn Walls grounded out to second for the first out, but drove in Pugh. Conner followed with a single to left, which too was misplayed and rolled to the fence. That allowed her to hustle around to third, and setup an RBI groundout by Kara Mills. Mickley then stepped in and drilled a ball into the gap. The ball rolled all the way to the fence, and Mickley raced around for an inside the park home run.
Danville wasn’t done, however. Iverson walked and Lauderbaugh singled to put two on, and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. They came home on a ball into left-center field by Francis, which was bobbled and ultimately dropped, making it a 17-0 contest.
Mickley finished off the Eagles in order in the top of the fifth to notch the win for the Blue Devils.
“From the third inning on, we started timing it up a little bit,” said Beheler. “It is really hard to wait on a ball that slow. You have to wait, wait, wait and then at the last second, come around. It was tough.
“It was nice to see out girls adjust. It is easier to adjust to a fast pitcher than it is to a slow pitcher. It was almost like playing slo-pitch softball — you really had to wait on it and create your own power. With a fastpitch pitcher, you just have to have the mechanics right because the ball is coming in hard. With a slower pitcher, you have to generate your own, which is tough.”
With the win, Danville advances to host Grove City Christian on Wednesday. Grove City Christian (15-8) defeated Wellington, 13-3, on Monday. The Blue Devils are anxious to face better competition in order to demonstrate they can be as good as they were a year ago.
“The regular season and the (Mid-Buckeye Conference) didn’t go like we planned, but we have an opportunity to turn it around,” said Conner. “Our record doesn’t show how good we are. We want to prove that.”
“This team is ready for whatever,” said Beheler. “I have no doubt these girls are ready to play in the tournament. The schedule we play prepared us, and you can only take losing so long. We played great (in the regular season), but we lost so many games by one run and that is frustrating. Now you are seeing what can happen just because we played well. Even though we didn’t win, all that hard work and playing well is going to payoff in the Division IV Tournament.”