After a tough 4-1 loss on the road against Defiance the night before, Wauseon softball coach Jen Croninger decided to give regular starting pitcher Juli Spadafore a bit of a break for their Division II sectional semifinal at home versus Perkins High School Tuesday.
She elected to start Macee Schang, and the move paid off, as she went four innings and allowed two runs on two hits with nine strikeouts in getting the win. Juli Spadafore eventually got time in the circle, pitching the final three innings where she gave up no runs on two hits and struck out four.
“Basically yesterday when we went up against Defiance, Juli had a long day. So it was just coming in fresh,” said Croninger of the decision. “Like I’ve said all year long, I’ve got three (pitchers) in house that I could go with anytime. It was just making sure Macee got some time tonight too. I mean she is up and coming. She’s been doing a really good job on my JV team. I got to give her credit when I can.”
Schang did struggle a bit with control – hitting three batters and walking four – but she almost always pulled through.
In the top of the first after a one-out walk and hit by pitch, then a wild pitch to advance the runners into scoring position, Schang struck out the final two to retire the side.
Perkins loaded the bases in their half of the fourth with a hit by pitch, an error that allowed Makayla Williams to reach, and a walk around two strikeouts. However, Dessa Dubbert grounded into a force at third to end the threat.
“Our defense was a lot better tonight,” admitted Croninger. “Last night (Monday against Defiance), we had a little slip and that’s kind of why we lost that game. So tonight, our goal was to come back out and be tough and talk on defense.
“Like I told the girls, I said it’s tournament, they are gonna hit the ball. Everybody wants to go on, so you have to make sure that your glove, your throws, everything’s on par. We did a good job tonight.”
The Indians got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI single from Harlee Floss to score Payton Albright for a 1-0 lead.
They would continue that offensive output in the home half of the second.
Schang led off the frame with a double to left field, then Maddy Martinez followed with a double that scored pinch-runner Jettie Burget. Alisa Shelt made it 3-0 with a double to plate Martinez.
After a strikeout, Ally Tefft’s double and Floss’ RBI single tacked on two more to put the score at 5-0. The Pirates would insert Dubbert in the circle and take out starter Tori Tackett, where she got the next two batters to fly out.
Perkins trimmed the Wauseon lead to three in the top of the third on a pair of two-out RBI singles from Ashley Kaufman and Karli Canterbury. But the Indians would take them back in the bottom of the frame.
With one down, Schang reached first on an error, then Martinez followed with a walk and Shelt singled to load the bases. Albright singled home Burget to make it a four-run advantage. Tefft then reached on a fielder’s choice, as Dubbert elected to go home but her throw went high of the catcher, scoring Martinez for a 7-2 Wauseon lead.
Perkins re-inserted Tackett in the home half of the fourth, and it seemed to work as she had a relatively easy inning. But, the Indians were able to manufacture a run in the bottom of the fifth.
Martinez drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and advanced to third on a ground out. She scored on a suicide squeeze off the bat of Albright.
Wauseon reached the final tally with a run-scoring single by Martinez in the bottom of the sixth.
“They were doing a heck of a job trying to throw us off with bringing in two different pitchers,” said Croninger of her team’s offense adjusting to Perkins’ strategy. “And I told the girls, they have decent pitchers over there too where they can switch them in and out. So we did a good job of timing tonight. That was all that was about. Seeing the ball and making sure that we played our game and not theirs.”
Tackett took the loss in the circle for the Pirates, giving up seven runs on 13 hits with two punchouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Albright (2 for 4), Floss (2 for 4), and Martinez (2 for 2) each drove in two runs to lead the Indian offense.
Wauseon (13-2) goes for a sectional title Friday at 5 p.m. when they host fourth-seeded Sandusky.
“I know they’ve had a couple of losses, but again, to me that’s nothing,” said Croninger on facing Sandusky. “(They have) strong hitters and decent pitching. So we’ve just got to come prepared and come out with the ‘W.’”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010