FREMONT - In the bottom of the first of Friday's Division IV district final at Fremont Ross, Calvert held on to a 2-1 against Lakota when center fielder Taylor Ritzler threw out Khilee Baltz trying to score from second on a single.
In the sixth inning with the score the same, Morgan Gangwer was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Meridith Lucius picked up the ball Gangwer sent to the left-center field gap and relayed it to Kate Brickner, who gunned down Gangwer at third.
It seemed like Calvert was destined for a win.
The Lakota softball team tackles pitcher Morgan Gangwer (center) after getting the final out in Friday’s district final against?Calvert in Fremont.
Above, Lakota’s Destiney?Long-Meyer slides into home for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Friday’s district final against Calvert in?Fremont.
PHOTO BY TONY MALUSO
Calvert third baseman Gabby?Bennett makes the throw to first for an out in the third inning.
There was only one problem:
Destiney played for Lakota.
And,?Destiney played a key role in Lakota's 5-2 district championship victory.
After Aubrey Bickford doubled to set the stage, Destiney Long-Meyer dropped a single into short right field, scoring Bickford to tie the game. An error moved Long-Meyer to third, where she stood when a wild pitch went to the backstop.
Long-Meyer said there was only one thing on her mind at the time.
"That I needed to get home so we can win the game," she said. "Just got to go in with confidence."
Long-Meyer slid safely into home with the go-ahead run, much to the delight of the Raider faithful sitting along the third base side. Lakota picked up two more insurance runs. Then in the circle, Gangwer, just as she'd done from the second inning on, shut down Calvert in the seventh to seal the win.
"It feels amazing," Gangwer said, proudly sporting her gold medal around her neck. "We work together, we do everything together. We can go far this year I feel like. Real far."
After Long-Meyer scored the go-ahead run, Aspen Ray crossed home off another wild pitch. Brianna Ray, Samantha Miller and Nikkia Cooper all followed with singles with Cooper driving home Brianna Ray and lifting Lakota to its 5-2 advantage.
"That was the key to the game obviously," Lakota coach Chris Chalfin said of the sixth inning rally. "I just about ran ourselves right out of the inning. Fortunately we had kids behind me there, behind Morgan there that strung some hits together. We just kept hitting the ball, and got a couple passed balls there that really helped us go out and sort of fueled the fire a little bit there, and got us more confidence. Then we relaxed. It's a lot easier to hit the ball when you're relaxed. It just really seemed to work out for us."
Though some Calvert mistakes contributed to Lakota's rally, Senecas' coach Rob Ritzler chose instead to focus on the positive plays his team made.
"We made some great plays to keep it 2-1, kept us in the game," he said. "I'm not going to look at the mistakes we made or anything because that happens. You guys watch the Indians; you see what kind of errors (they make). To put it on high school kids, no. At the beginning of the year, you would've told me this team would've made it in the district finals and be four outs from regionals, I would've said you're dreaming. But I'm so proud of them. What a nice tournament run."
The difference may have been Calvert's inability to get any offense off Gangwer after the first inning. In the opening frame, Calvert got a pair of hits coupled with a pair of errors that netted the Senecas two runs. Taylor Ritzler led off the game with a single. She scored off Nicole Bickley's fielder's choice where the threw to get Ritzler at third went wide. Later in the inning, Nicole Fretz singled home Kate Brickner for an early 2-0 lead.
But after the first, Calvert managed just one hit, a double by Ritzler in the fifth.
Gangwer went the distance, tossing a 3-hitter with six strikeouts.
"I pitch every game like it's the last," she said. "... If they hit the ball I believed in my outfield and my infield. So all around I just fell like, I believe in everybody.
"I did get scared a little bit," she added when asked about being behind late. "I just concentrate more, try to throw harder. I believe in my outfield and infield so much, they have been there the whole season for me."
For Chalfin, Gangwer's performance and the way the team responded to being behind was exactly what he wanted to see from his team.
"She's a gamer," Chalfin said. "She's been in that situation before where she's behind. We talked to these kids before about, there's going to be times when you get behind early. You play seven innings. It's not who's ahead, the winner of the first inning doesn't win the game. It's the winner at the end of seven. We talked to them a lot throughout the year about battling, battling, battling, playing all seven innings. I don't know if that's what sunk in, or if it just worked out that way."
Gangwer's performance, though, was equaled by Calvert hurler Nicole Bickley. The senior stayed in control of the game until the sixth inning. Only one of the runs she allowed was earned.
Coach Ritzler said Bickley has been pitching at a high level all tournament long, helping the team get to a level it hadn't been to since 2004.
"The first game against St. Wendelin, she just pitched really well," Ritzler said. "And then her confidence grew. And she started hitting her spots, she was working ahead and then the defense started playing great behind her. That's what you do. You have great defense and great pitching and it'll get you somewhere. And, it got us this far. I'll take that."
Lakota moves on to the Sweet 16, where the Raiders match up against Patrick Henry in a Division IV regional semifinal 5 p.m. Thursday at The Cube in Findlay.
Calvert drops to 9-11, but after the game, Ritzler mentioned how there were no regrets to the season. He pointed out the leadership of his three seniors, Bickley, Brickner and Margaret Bowers as a key factor in the tournament run, and mentioned how far the team had come since the beginning of the year, with a district runner-up trophy a reward for its efforts.
"We've had games where we've played really bad, and we've had games where we've played really good," he said. "And we played really good until there at the end. They started hitting the ball a little bit. I'm so proud of these girls to hang in there for this long in this tournament. I don't know what else to say, I'm just proud of them."