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There is an old adage in sports that it s tougher to stay on top than it is to get there, and the St. Ursula Academy softball team can attest to that.
The third-ranked, defending state champion Arrows take a 26-2 record into today s 5 p.m. Division I regional semifinal against 23-5 Perrysburg.
Getting this far has been anything but a romp for first-year head coach Steve Parrill s team, and it won t get any easier facing a strong Yellow Jackets squad from the highly-competitive Northern Lakes League.
One SUA loss was a 10-inning, 2-1 setback against arch-rival Notre Dame Academy during City League play. The second was a 1-0 defeat by Notre Dame, giving the Eagles their second straight CL playoff title.
That was SUA s third straight loss against its chief rival, including last year s 1-0 CL semifinal defeat.
But after being limited to just one total run by NDA junior pitcher Kelsey Brickman over 33 previous innings spanning four games the Arrows finally broke loose last Friday. Trailing 1-0, they rallied for three runs off Brickman with two outs in the seventh inning.
To handle those losses against Notre Dame was huge, Parrill said. To beat them in the district was something we ll point to as very important. That was the main adversity that we had. Now we should have the confidence to face any challenge.
All-Ohio senior pitcher Hayley Wiemer delivered a game-tying single, and her catcher, junior Audrey Tucholski, followed with what proved to be a game-winning, two-run homer.
It s definitely good to get out of our district because our district is so tough every year, said Wiemer, who pitched the Arrows to last year s state title, and also played a key role on SUA s D-I state volleyball championship in the fall.
For everyone on this team, this [tourney run] is what we ve been looking forward to the whole year. Notre Dame is a good team and every game they played their best against us.
For Tucholski it was redemption after having the ball jarred loose from her glove for Notre Dame s winning run on a hard slide at the plate in the seventh inning of the CL final.
Emotionally and psychologically, they were the only thing standing in our way, and we knew we could beat them, Tucholski said. We had so much confidence going into that [district] game.
When Hayley brought in that [tying] run, it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I just relaxed, and I think the whole team relaxed. We settled down and got the game done.
The Arrows previously survived for a 10-inning, 1-0 win in their district semi-final against Northview.
St. Ursula is back at the regionals for the second straight year, and the second time in school history. This despite losing six starters from last year s state-championship team.
The most influential role in the reloading process has been played by Wiemer, who paces the Arrows both on the mound and at the plate.
Wiemer, who will play at Bowling Green State University, takes a 21-2 record into regional play with a 0.14 earned-run average. She has 278 strikeouts, and just three walks and 38 hits allowed in 145 innings.
Wiemer tops SUA in offensive production with a .439 batting average (36 for 82), 13 home runs, 51 RBIs and 33 runs scored.
Two other returning senior starters have also helped carry the Arrows back to regionals. Shortstop Alyssa Frobase is hitting .432 with two homers, 28 RBIs and 37 runs, and second baseman Chelsey Jones is hitting .341 with 16 RBIs and 29 runs.
It feels great getting back, Frobase said. We have good team chemistry. We re a family, and every year we re-establish that with the new girls coming in.
The biggest difference between last year and this year is that we were more determined to do that [win state] last year, Jones said. With this year s team, we have already done it, so we re trying to have fun doing it again.
Another returnee is third baseman Siera Reichler, who missed part of the season with an injury, but has returned to hit .319.
As for the underclassman production, promising freshman right fielder Alyssa Schultz is hitting .425 with 13 RBIs, 26 runs and a team-high 10 stolen bases. Sophomore left fielder Kelly Krueger, elevated from the JV team near midseason, leads the team at .457 (21-for-46). Tucholski is hitting .338 with three homers and 16 RBIs
Rounding things out are senior first baseman Bridget Rattay, sophomore third baseman Chastity Guerrero, junior catcher/outfielder Lauren Burkett, junior outfielder/flex player Corey Monarch and junior outfielder Andrea Slusarski.
Our returning starters know what it takes, and they have been great leaders for us, Parrill said. We also have great assistant coaches, and they know what it takes. They have been guiding me as I ve been feeling my way through it.