Bat poised, Perrysburg's Lindsay Rich draws a bead on the ball in a game against Springfield at the Yellow Jackets' field.
Figuring out who's the best softball team in the Northern Lakes League may end up remaining an uncertainty right until the final week of the league season.
Springfield tightened the league race with a 4-0 shutout of Perrysburg Monday afternoon.
The Blue Devils put together a four-run third inning to hand the host Yellow Jackets their first league defeat of the season.
Jesse Zappone slapped a bases-loaded, run-scoring single with one out off Perrysburg's Kim Bryson to give Springfield a 1-0 lead. Two batters later, Lindsey Bandeen tagged a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double to make it 4-0, which was more than enough cushion for Blue Devils ace Ashlyn Michalak to work with to earn the decision.
"It was a really close game at the beginning, and we played against a really good team, so I'm glad we won," said Michalak, who limited Perrysburg to one hit while striking out eight.
Springfield s Ashlyn Michalak prepares to unleash a pitch Monday afternoon against Perrysburg. The Blue Devils junior limited the Yellow Jackets to a Stephanie Messenger single in the seventh inning as Springfield got a 4-0 victory.
Springfield coach Rob Gwodz commended his junior pitcher for another "lights out" effort.
But it was the Blue Devils' defensive work with their gloves is what impressed him the most about the team's performance.
"That's what we pride ourselves on is our defense," said Gwodz, whose team improved to 14-1 overall and 4-1 in league.
Perrysburg coach Gary Godwin credited the Blue Devils for playing a solid all-around game in a key NLL matchup.
"[Springfield] outplayed us, and they were stronger today," said Godwin, whose team slipped to 9-3 overall and 3-1 in league. "I would like to say the wind was a factor, but we played in the same wind."
Both run-scoring hits by the Blue Devils dropped into short right field. On each occasion, the wind appeared to stop the ball's momentum short of the Yellow Jackets outfielders.
"In all actuality, on a normal day those balls would have been caught," Godwin said.
Perrysburg's Stephanie Messenger led off the bottom of the seventh with a base hit off Michalak. However, the lone Yellow Jacket to record a hit in the game was left stranded on the base to end the contest.
It left both teams tied with one league loss apiece, along with Anthony Wayne, which has defeated the Blue Devils and lost to the Yellow Jackets.
After holding the Blue Devils scoreless through the first two innings, Bryson gave up a leadoff single to Springfield's Emily Rockman in the third. A couple batters later Marisa Shipman reached first base safely with a bunt-single that fell in the sand right in front of home plate. Brittany Richberg followed and reached base on an error to fill the bases.
Zappone was next and came through with her run-scoring hit before Bandeen cleared the bases to secure the win.
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