Anthony Wayne senior third baseman Olivia Thomas crushed a decisive home run Tuesday to send the Generals to a Division I district final.
Thomas slammed a solo home run with two outs in the sixth inning of a district semifinal against No. 6 ranked Notre Dame at Rolf Park in Maumee. The Generals (16-4) went on to drop the Eagles 2-1 behind a strong relief performance from junior pitcher Jenna Hardy.
Notre Dame (24-3), which came into the game ranked No. 6 in the coaches poll, led 1-0 after one inning with an RBI single from sophomore pitcher Caitlyn Kowalski in the first inning.
PHOTO GALLERY: Anthony Wayne and Springfield advance to final
Anthony Wayne tied it in the third on junior center fielder Alyssa Ansara’s single and a throwing error.
Thomas’ shot broke the tie.
“I was just looking to get a base hit and it turned out to be a little more,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know it was out until I was rounding first base. It was an amazing feeling. I knew my team would have my back the rest of the game. I was excited to get the lead. It’s a great feeling. This is my senior year so it’s nice to extend it a little more.”
Thomas smoked the ball about 220 feet to straightaway right field. The no-doubt homer put the Generals up 2-1.
Notre Dame's Madeline Miller cries as she walks of the field after their loss to Anthony Wayne in the Div. 1 District 1 semi-final softball game at Rolf Park in Maumee.
“As soon as you start thinking about hitting one out, you aren’t going to. I was literally just looking to contact the ball,” Thomas said. “All I wanted was a single and it was just a nice easy swing. My practice and my mechanics helped me out there.”
Anthony Wayne advances to face No. 10 ranked Springfield (20-4) in a district final at 5 p.m. Friday here. The Blue Devils defeated Findlay 11-1 in the other semifinal shortened by run rule in the fifth inning.
“It’s always a team effort for us,” AW coach Ron Myers said of his team, which had six hits. “We have to play defense to win and we need our hits at the right time and we got them today. It’s great we’re continuing on.”
Anthony Wayne freshman pitcher Lauren Curry started and completed the first two innings. She struck out two but allowed three walks, including two in a row to start the third and was replaced by Hardy.
“We wanted to give them the look of Lauren Curry coming out of the get-go,” Myers said. “She did a great job. We wanted to change it up because Notre Dame has a lot of kids who played travel ball against Hardy.”
Hardy came in and retired the next three batters to stifle the potential rally for the Eagles. Hardy, who struck out six batters in her five innings of relief, closed it out by stranding Eagle runners at first and second base in the seventh.
“She did a great job with that adrenaline to close out the game for us,” Myers said.
Myers said Thomas had Kowalski timed up well and could have hit another home run earlier in the game but it fell just short of the fence.
The Generals avenged a 3-2 loss to the Eagles earlier this season.
“We’ve always fought hard,” Notre Dame coach Norm Kujawa said. “We never thought we were out of it. We played them last month and it came down to a similar situation.”
This time, however, Myers opted to walk Kathyrn Rex to put the potential tying run in scoring position after Rex had ended the earlier game with a walk-off single.
“It just didn’t go our way today,” Kujawa said.
Notre Dame had runners on base in five of the seven innings.
Notre Dame set a record for the most wins in a season in the 32-year history of the program.
“It’s our first state ranking in my nine years here,” Kujawa said. “We were hoping to go a little farther so this hurts. But losing to Anthony Wayne is not an embarrassment. They are a quality, well-rounded team.”
Kowalski found the hole between shortstop and third base to drive in Hannah Rubel, who had reached base on an error for the early lead.
The Generals got the equalizer, when Jade Ramer was hit by a pitch. Ansara followed by hitting a soft grounder to third, but the throw from third baseman Erin Bollin was off-line and Ramer, running on the play, came all the way around to score.
Northern Lakes League foes Anthony Wayne and Springfield will play three times in the next three days. The teams will complete a suspended regular-season game Wednesday followed by another contest, then they will meet Friday.
“Notre Dame is a great program. They are state ranked. There a lot of great teams in northwest Ohio team with a lot of college [caliber] players,” Myers said.
Kowalski struck out 12 batters
Carly Turner helped the Blue Devils advance in a big way. She threw a two-hitter, allowing just a fourth-inning run. Turner also was a force at the plate, as she went 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs, as Springfield scored four times in the second, two in the fourth and five in the fifth to close it out.
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