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Southview may have missed out on its chance to win the Northern Lakes League softball title, but the Cougars are the last NLL team standing in Division I tournament play after ousting league foe Bowling Green 6-1 in a regional semifinal Friday at Maumee’s Rolf Park.
The Cougars (21-6), aided by two Bobcat errors, jumped on BG junior starter Casey Akenberger for three runs in the third inning, then rode their own senior ace Olivia O’Reilly to the second regional-final appearance in school history.
In 2002, Southview lost 1-0 in a regional final against eventual state champion Elyria, which will be their opponent again this time in today’s noon final at Clyde High School. Elyria (23-4), ranked No. 2 in Division I, rallied to beat 10th-ranked Grafton Midview 6-5 in last night semifinal played at Clyde. Elyria, the 2009 state champ, lost to Springfield in last year’s regional final.
“I’m extremely proud of this group,” Southview coach Jim Zoltowski said. “We kind of stubbed our toe in the league [8-4 record]. When we got to the postseason, we talked about the five steps to get to the final four. This is our fourth one.
“We’ll enjoy this for little bit and then get real focused for the next step. We’re happy to be there.”
O’Reilly (13-1), who has battled shoulder soreness in her throwing arm since mid-April, benefitted from extra rest after the semi was rained out Wednesday and Thursday.
The 17-9 Bobcats’ only hits of the game — sixth-inning singles by Shannon Joseph and Lily Murnen — ended O’Reilly’s no-hit and shutout bids. She struck out 12 batters and walked none.
“When you’re sore, a couple extra days rest doesn’t hurt you,” O’Reilly said. “Also, the team got to practice a little more. You can never have too much practice.
“It’s cool getting to the regional final. We’re excited. You’ve got to beat the big teams to get the big trophy. We’re ready to compete.”
After missing out on a prime scoring chance in the second inning — when Southview’s Katie Austin was thrown out at the plate for the first out on a Meredith Martindale bunt, and runners were left stranded at second and third — Southview cashed in an inning later.
Cougar catcher Jess Knepper singled and O’Reilly reached safely when BG second baseman Kristi Eikenberry dropped a potential force-out throw at second. Knepper and courtesy runner Hanna Gerken advanced a base on a passed ball, and Knepper slid home safely on Emily Estrich’s fielder’s-choice grounder. Gerken raced home when BG catcher Hayley Williford threw to second trying to get Estrich.
Estrich made it 3-0 when Austin
(2 for 3) singled, and Murnen bobbled the ball in right field.
Southview added three runs in the fifth, with Knepper (2 for 3) and O’Reilly singling to start things. Austin delivered a two-run single, then scored on Martindale’s double to the fence in left-center field.
“Everybody on the team hit well today,” Austin said.
“We all contributed. We’re so excited to move on to the regional finals.”
BG’s only other base runner, Allie Smith, reached on a third-inning error by shortstop Ali Howard.
“[Southview] put the ball in play today and we just didn’t come with our A-game,” BG coach Jim Cress said. “We made a few throwing errors, and there were a couple balls I thought we should’ve had.
[O’Reilly] threw the ball well. She got ahead of our girls, and she was throwing some outside pitches that we were chasing. She did a great job of mixing it up and with location.”
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.