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Title time for Blue Devils

Springfield earns at least a share of NLL crown


Springfield's Ashley Zappone scores as Perrysburg catcher Kimmy Granata awaits the throw in the sixth inning. The Blue Devils (22-1) clinched at least a share of their second NLL crown in the last four seasons, also winning in 2009.

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The offensively explosive Springfield Blue Devils looked to be cruising to a Northern Lakes League softball championship on Wednesday, but a resilient Perrysburg group did not make it easy.

Springfield jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the fifth inning over the visiting Yellow Jackets, but Perrysburg exploded for six runs in the sixth inning.

The Blue Devils responded with an insurance run and held on for a 12-10 victory.

Coupled with Southview's 3-2 loss to Anthony Wayne on Wednesday, the Blue Devils earned at least a share of the NLL crown.

Every other NLL team has at least three losses, and Springfield has three league games remaining.

The league title is the second in the last four seasons for Springfield (22-1 overall, 11-0 NLL).

"The goal from day one in February is to win an NLL championship. That's a good feeling," Springfield coach Rob Gwozdz said. "But it's never easy in the NLL, let alone Perrysburg because those kids can hit it. It's always a great battle."

PHOTO GALLERY: Perrysburg vs. Springfield

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The productive teams combined for 28 hits and four home runs. Springfield banged out 16 base knocks, while Perrysburg countered with 12 hits and three homers.

Springfield first baseman Emily Rockman had two doubles and drove in three runs. The senior was a freshman when the Blue Devils last won the title in 2009.

"That feels great," Rockman said. "We've been fighting for it the whole season."

All nine batters in the Springfield lineup had at least one hit.

"The neat thing about these guys is that every day it's someone different," Gwozdz said.

Perrysburg (15-6, 7-4) came up with six hits and six runs off Springfield reliever Lauren Yates in the sixth inning. Ty Wilson drove in two with a single to pull the Jackets within three runs. Kimmy Granata plated two more with a deep home run over the right field fence to make it 11-10.

"I was very happy with the way we battled back, got some runs, and made a game of it," Perrysburg coach Ryan DeMars said. "When it was 11-4 I'm sure the Springfield fans didn't think they would be so stressed out in the seventh."

But Springfield starter Bre Buck, who helped her own cause with an RBI double in the sixth for a two-run cushion, was reinserted back into the game. She pitched a scoreless seventh to get the win.

Springfield freshman Bre Espino hit her seventh home run of the season -- a no doubter to straight center to lead off the third and made it 6-1.

Fellow freshman Hannah Girlie, who went 3 for 4 and scored two runs, has hit eight home runs. Girlie, a shortstop, also ended the game with a beautiful diving catch.

Springfield, which moved up to fifth in the latest Division I state coaches poll, has already shattered the program record for home runs in a season, which previously stood at 10. The Blue Devils have smashed 23.

The Yellow Jackets have now hit 17 home runs as a team.

Katie Murphy led off the game with a solo homer. Pitcher Felicia Eisenbrandt hit a two-run home run to pull Perrysburg within 6-3 in the fourth.

"We know we have some power," DeMars said. "We can score runs. It's just sometimes we have some missed opportunities. We need to be more consistent there."

Springfield scored five runs in the first inning as Chelsea Haas came up with a clutch, two-out hit to score three runs and make it 5-1.

Haas, Espino, Ashley Zappone, and Kiley Aller each had two hits. Rockman's double down the left-field line scored two to make it 8-3 in the fourth.

"We are playing very well and we're right on track with where we want to be," Rockman said.

Springfield, which won a sectional title on Tuesday, plays Southview (12-9, 7-3) in a D-I district semifinal next Tuesday.

Perrysburg, which defeated Bowling Green in a sectional final on Tuesday, plays Fremont Ross on Tuesday in the district semifinals.

"We want to use all of the good things that happened in this game to propel us to a tournament run," DeMars said. "This can be beneficial. We won't play a better team than Springfield for several games."

Contact Mark Monroe at:, 419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.

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