Springfield wins Division I district softball title


Springfield struck for instant runs to instantly erase some bad memories, avenge a loss, and capture a district championship on Friday.

The Blue Devils got revenge for last year's season-ending loss to Notre Dame when they erupted for six runs in the fourth inning in a Division I district title game. Springfield (22-4) advanced to the regional semifinals with an 8-2 win over the Eagles (19-9) before an estimated crowd of 225 at Rolf Park in Maumee.

With the game tied at 2 in the fourth, Springfield strung together four consecutive hits to score six instant runs. The Blue Devils batted around with seven straight runners reaching before an out was recorded.

“The girls heated up at the right time,” Springfield coach Rob Gwozdz said. “Finally we got things going and you could feel a sigh of relief. It was hit after hit. It was momentum and it was contagious.”

Springfield, which is ranked eighth in the state poll, banged out 11 hits to advance to the regional semis to face fourth-ranked Brecksville Broadview Heights.

Junior third baseman Brianna Espino went 3 for 3 and drove in two crucial runs during Springfield's outburst.

“Our hitting is very contagious,” Espino said. “We always have each others' backs. We knew what we had to do. That makes it sweeter.”

In the decisive inning, Springfield loaded the bases with no outs on an error, a single by Libby Mathewson and a walk. The Blue Devils then smacked four consecutive hits to instantly build a 8-2 lead.

Kierra Hague singled in Kiley Aller, who reached with her speed on a grounder. Bre Buck then singled up the middle to plate Mathewson for a 4-2 lead. Espino the drove in two more with another single. Allison LaPoint, a freshman, then doubled in two more for the insurmountable six-run cushion.

That was more than enough for junior pitcher Lauren Yates, who gave up seven hits and struck out four.

“That got my adrenaline pumping,” Yates said.“It makes me a lot more comfortable and loosened me up. They had my back.”

Notre Dame senior starter Cassie Gillespie had three strikeouts and her defense committed six errors.

“They have a tough lineup,” Notre Dame coach Norm Kujawa said. “But Gillespie did a great job making her pitches. She got a lot of ground balls but they barely snuck through the infield. There's not much you can do about it. They got on a roll. Our defense wasn't very sharp. But we hit pretty well.”

Notre Dame senior Amanda Del Monte had two doubles and senior Molly Walters had two singles. Kujawa said he is losing three four-year starers in Gillespie, Del Monte, and Walters,

“They put up some historic numbers. They set many school records. It's a fantastic senior class,” he said.

Last year in the district semis, Notre Dame rallied with two runs in the final inning to beat Springfield 6-5.

“We all talked about getting revenge,” Yates said. “It was exactly a year and two days ago and we were so ready to come out and get them.”

The Blue Devils struck early with one run in the first. But Gillespie escaped further trouble with the bases loaded.

Aller reached on an error. She then stole second and Mathewson then got on with an infield single. Aller then scored on a fielder's choice. Gillespie struck out the next batter and then allowed a walk. She then got another fielder's choice to end the threat.

Notre Dame trailed 1-0 when they strung together three hits in the third to take a two-run lead. Long doubled to lead off and Walters followed with a single. Long and Walters then scored on fielders' choices.

But Springfield tied it back up in the bottom of the third when Espino, who had singled, scored on Lexi Buck's RBI single.

Notre Dame then had runners at second and third with one out following a walk and an error. But Yates struckout two to get out of the jam.

Lexi Buck walked and Joseph followed with a solid single to start the second. But Gillespie got three straight ground outs to escape the trouble.

It is Springfield's first trip to the regionals since the Blue Devils went to the final four in 2010.

“It's been our goal to get back and they now they get to feel what it's like to be district champions,” Gwozdz said. “It's good to get back there. In this sport it is difficult to make that run. It feels great. It's so tough. The kids really wanted it, so we're really happy.”

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.