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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Springfield softball tops Notre Dame for a district title

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

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 advanced to the regional semifinals with an 8-2 win over the Eagles at Rolf Park in Maumee.

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With the game tied at 2 in the fourth, Springfield (22-4) strung together four consecutive hits to score six times. The Blue Devils batted around the lineup with seven consecutive 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, ranked eighth in the state poll, banged out 11 hits and will face No. 4 Brecksville Broadview Heights.

Junior third baseman Brianna Espino went 3 for 3 in the contest 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 smacked four consecutive hits to build a 8-2 lead.

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

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.”

Notre Dame senior starter Cassie Gillespie had three strikeouts while 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. 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.

Last year in the district semis, Notre Dame 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 when Aller scored on a fielder's choice. Notre Dame (19-9) trailed 1-0 when they strung together three hits in the third to take a two-run lead.

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

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.



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