The Perrysburg softball team has followed a blueprint for winning this season: low-scoring games thanks to pitcher Beth Dunsmoor, a solid defense and an opportunistic offense that manages to score just enough.
Perrysburg (23-5) faces St. Ursula (26-2) today at 5 p.m. in a Division I regional semifinal at Clyde. The Yellow Jackets defeated Wapakoneta 4-3 in a sectional final, then shut out Anthony Wayne 5-0 and Clay 3-0 in the district tournament.
"It's been a fun ride here through sectionals and districts," Perrysburg coach Mickey Arquette said. "The girls are up right now. They're pumped and excited."
The Yellow Jackets, who tied for the Northern Lakes League title last year, went 10-4 in league play and finished in second place this season.
Arquette, who was the softball coach at Owens Community College for five years, returned to coach her alma mater last year. Arquette, who graduated in 1988, helped the Jackets win two NLL titles as a player. She also was an assistant coach under Mark Hamann from 1993-95.
"It's been nice," Arquette said. "Perrysburg had a few down years and we're trying to get [the program] back up where it belongs."
Dunsmoor, a junior pitcher, has helped ignite the program's revival by posting a 19-5 mark and recording 10 strikeouts per game - 240 this season - while posting a miniscule 0.70 earned-run average.
"She is overpowering, but what makes her effective is that she can spot the ball so well," Arquette said. "She has a rise and a drop. She uses the corners well. She has a good mix of off-speed stuff."
Perrysburg started its season by going 5-0 against good competition in Florida. The team continued to win consistently until it hit a dry spell at the plate.
"Our hitting just fell off and it was the entire team," Arquette said.
Still Dunsmoor kept the Yellow Jackets close in almost every game.
"Just before the [postseason] tournament, we finally started clicking again," Arquette said.
She said the key to the offensive resurgence was having her players just swing harder.
"Once that happens, it's contagious," she said. "We hit a lull, but now we're peaking at the right time."
Dunsmoor also has led the Jackets' offensive assault along with senior shortstop Cameron Rehard, who is batting .309 with six doubles and 11 runs batted in.
Springfield coach Rob Gwozdz, whose team won the NLL title, said Dunsmoor was the MVP of the league.
"She's just an outstanding junior pitcher," Gwozdz said.
Sophomore right fielder Heather Connors has come through during the postseason. Connors, who has 12 RBIs, had two runs batted in against Clay in the district final.
"Basically before it was one or two kids, now it is one through nine that are doing well with the stick," Arquette said.
Sophomore first baseman Olivia Hegedus also has been pivotal in helping Perrysburg average 10 hits per game in the postseason. Hegedus has a .278 average and has eight doubles.
Freshman Mallory Messenger (.315, eight RBIs) and Sarah Tipton (.288 with 13 RBIs) also have stepped up at the plate. But Messenger was lost for the season with a broken hand.
Perrysburg has just three seniors on its 14-player roster. But Arquette said her young team has the ability to play whatever style a game dictates.
Arquette said playing in the highly competitive NLL has helped her team prepare for the postseason.
"The NLL is the strongest league around," Arquette said. "The caliber of pitching really does help prepare you."
She said the style of each pitcher is diverse.
"Every day they face something different," Arquette said. "Being challenged every day helps them gets up for this."
St. Ursula also knows plenty about facing stiff competition. The defending state champion Arrows handed Perrysburg one of its five losses as they knocked off the Yellow Jackets 4-2 in a regular-season matchup.
"We weren't hitting at that point," Arquette said. "The girls are very confident now. I think we have a fair chance of winning. It will come down to who hits the ball the hardest."
Perrysburg must face the Arrows' star pitcher Hayley Wiemer, who has been unhittable throughout much of the season. Wiemer will provide a stiff test for the Yellow Jackets' revitalized offense.
"We've had the pitching and defense, now we have all three aspects," Arquette said. "I think both teams have an equal chance to win."
- Mark Monroe