PICKERINGTON — When the door is opened just a crack, good softball teams will barge right through. The Danville softball team has done that throughout the tournament, but on Wednesday, the Devils had the door slammed back in their faces.
Danville got runners on with one out or less in four of the first six innings, but couldn’t push the door open any further, falling 3-0 to Strasburg-Franklin in the Division IV Regional semifinals at Pickerington Central High School.
“We did not play well enough to win at all,” said Danville coach Mike Beheler. “You’ve got to put the ball in play and we did not. We’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves.”
The Devils (11-13) looked like they were going to come out of the gates firing, as leadoff batter Tracy Payne reached second on a hard hit ball the left fielder misplayed. But, Strasburg pitcher Carly Clark settled down in a hurry, getting a pop-out and two strikeouts to end the threat.
The Tigers (29-2) rode that momentum when they came to plate, as the first five batters reached base. But, two good defensive plays, one by Payne at shortstop and one by catcher Kaleigh Conner, kept the Tigers from scoring. Payne forced a runner at third on a hard hit ball in the hole, and then Conner picked off Strasburg runner Emmy Hensel at third base with the bases loaded and just one out.
Danville got the leadoff batter on base again in the second inning when Morgan Lauderbaugh was hit by a pitch. But, after a sacrifice by Ashlee Townsend, two more strikeouts stranded Lauderbaugh at second.
Strasburg finally broke through in the third inning with two runs. Hensel led off the inning with a single, then moved around the bases on a wild pitch and two errors. Clark was able to score the second run of the inning on a wild pitch. The Tigers didn’t look to be done, as they had the bases loaded, but Danville pitcher Hannah Matheny coaxed a groundout to end the inning.
“They really brought it to us. They put the ball in play and came after us,” Beheler said. “We made some nice plays, but our bad plays came at the wrong times.”
Danville tried to come back in the top of the fourth inning, as Shelbi Gonzales singled and Townsend was hit by a pitch. But, another strike out ended the threat without a run.
“We’ve been that way all year long. We’ve never really put a rally together. We’re not the type of team that can score three, four or five runs in a stretch. Tonight, we couldn’t put one together,” Beheler said. “It’s not like their pitcher was overpowering. We just didn’t hit the ball.”
Danville fans thought they got a bit of a break in the fifth inning when Strasburg brought in relief pitcher Kasey Gerber. But, Gerber picked up right where Clark left off, shutting down the Devils on just one hit in her three innings of work. Danville ended the evening with 13 strike outs and just two hits.
“Strasburg just wanted it more than we did. They came to play and we did not. They played their game, they put the ball in play, stole bases and had some trick plays,” Beheler said. “Our decision making was not very good and I take the blame for that. For a team to play like that, it’s got to be the coach’s fault. Obviously, I did not prepare us very well.”
Strasburg added an insurance run in the fourth, as Abby Froman scored on a single by Tiffany Herbert.
Matheny and Gonzales had the lone hits for the Devils, both singles. Lauderbaugh reached base after being hit by a pitch, Townsend had a walk and Payne reached on an error as just five Devils reached base on the night.
Hensel had two singles to lead Strasburg.
On the mound, Matheny struck out three, walked four and allowed seven hits in her seven innings of work for Danville. Clark struck out seven batters for Strasburg, allowing just one hit and one walk, and Gerber struck out six and allowed one hit.
The loss ends the careers of Danville seniors Payne, Gonzales and Trisha Pattison.