LEXINGTON - Prom wasn't for another five hours but the Columbian softball team did a little dancing Saturday afternoon.
The Tornadoes did a salsa on home plate eight times in the sixth inning to rumba past Shelby, 9-4, in the Division II sectional opener at Lexington High School, and allowing them to waltz into the sectional final against Mansfield Madison.
The Rams beat Galion, 8-0, in the other sectional semifinal to start the day.
Columbian head coach Bessie Artino said her team came into the game with a lot of confidence they could beat Shelby, despite losing to them 2-1 and 5-3 this year.
"I'm on a high note right now. Shelby came on board first and I told them 'Never die. Never die and play as hard as you can. Anything can happen in the tournament,'" Artino said. "Our girls were saying we can beat this team. The team atmosphere was very positive. I knew if we played good defense, the hits would fall and they did. It's a great win."
Senior Julie Funk said her teammates had a goal.
"We didn't want them to come out and beat us a third (straight game)," she said.
Facing the Whippets (14-10) for the third time this year, Paige Correll was dealing, striking out eight and walking no one. She gave up nine hits including two solo home runs: one to Mikala Miller in the fourth inning and another in the sixth off the bat of Taylor Goth.
"I think I was (hitting my spots)," Correll said. "I wasn't really concerned about it. I knew that they could hit off of me. I was going to throw them what I could and stay away from what they (could) hit."
The Tornadoes managed just three hits outside of the sixth inning as Miller held Columbian (6-12) in relative check. She struck out six and walked one in the loss. Only four of the nine runs she yielded were earned.
But she'd like to forget about the sixth inning. Heading into the frame with a 3-0 lead, the Whippets saw the game go off the rails.
Sierra Shope and Valecia Province led off the inning with back-to-back singles, which brought Berecz to the plate.
On a 3-2 count, Berecz smoked a screaming liner down the left field line but it curved and turned just outside the foul pole.
"I was really mad that it went foul, but I'm also glad we came back and got all those runs," Berecz said. "(After we started scoring), I really started to believe in us because we're a team that gets down on ourselves. But we didn't let us today."
She didn't get another pitch to hit as Miller walked her to load the bases.
Correll followed with a worm burner down the third base line, scoring two and leaving her on second.
Roni Daughenbaugh reached on an error in center field, scoring Berecz. Kendalyn Sarka followed with a single to center, scoring Correll and Daughenbaugh to make it 5-3.
Alyssa Price reached on a throwing error before the Whippets were able to record the first out of the inning, a strikeout of Mercedes Runion. Autum Kuzma made the second out on a groundout, but advanced Sarka and Price in the process.
At this point, Columbian's lineup looked like it did when it started the inning, with Shope at the plate. And like her first time up that inning, Shope singled. This time she got an RBI, driving in Sarka and pushing Price to third.
Province did the same, singling to drive in Price. Berecz singled to load the bases and bring up Correll again. She reached on an error, which scored Shope. On the play, Province tried to score amidst the error-filled confusion but was out at the plate.
"It's the same that we've done all year long. We played six good innings and one bad inning and give up five unearned runs and that's what beats you every time. We don't ever give up. We don't stop playing. But it's like someone can't step up and make the big play for us," Shelby coach Tim Swigart said. "It was nothing but a snowball once the issues start."
Daughenbaugh singled and scored on an error in the seventh to round out the Columbian scoring.
The Tornadoes move on to face Madison Thursday at 5 p.m. back at Lexington High School.