RICHMOND - Buckeye Local is one step away from another title.
Led by Lauren Swiger, the Panthers made the most of their opportunities as the Buckeye Local softball team toppled Edison, 9-1, in an Ohio Division II Eastern District Sectional semifinal game Tuesday at Jefferson Lake State Park.
"It is a good day," Buckeye Local (15-11) head coach Joe Soos said. "Any day is a good day when you win."
SECTIONAL SOFTBALL — Buckeye Local’s Lauren Swiger rounds third base after hitting a three-run home run during Tuesday’s 9-1 victory over Edison in the Division?II?sectional tournament at Jefferson Lake State Park.
-- Mike Mathison
The Panthers advanced to the sectional final at 5 p.m. Thursday. Buckeye Local will play the winner of today's semifinal game between Big Red and Indian Creek. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
"Buckeye obviously showed they were ready to play," Edison (17-10) head coach Spencer Bendle said. "They are a darn-good ballclub.
"We had a couple of opportunities early where we stranded runners. We did not get the timely hits when we needed to. On the other side of that, they did get that two-out hit there early in the game.
"That kind of set the stage of how things went today.
"Buckeye played well. They beat us in every area of the game. There is no doubt they deserved to win. Their pitcher threw strikes. Their defense played well, their outfield made some really-exceptional plays and they hit the ball.
"Most definitely they were the better team."
Ivy Starcher recorded the win. She struck out six and walked two while allowing one run on seven hits.
Swiger did the most damage offensively as the shortstop produced a two-run double and a three-run home run to lead the way. Also, Kierstyn Czuchran contributed a two-run single, Taryn Tonkovich tallied a single and an RBI and Kaylee DeCesare and Aliyah Marelli each collected a base hit.
Starcher not only received a good amount of support at the plate, but she also got plenty of it in the field as the Panthers' made multiple good days in the field.
"Edison is a good team, and when you play a good team like that you have to play defense," Soos said. "They don't make a lot of mistakes. They play really good competition. You are always on needles and pins whenever you play them.
"I thought we played fantastic defense. Our outfield caught about four balls most outfielders don't make. That set up our big day."
Mikayla Tice took the loss. Tice struck out two and walked three in her five-plus innings of work inside the circle. Tice was replaced in the sixth by Zoe Westfall, who issued one free pass.
The Wildcats' pitchers were hurt by the team's four errors. The Panthers finished the game with two.
Offensively, the Wildcats outhit the Panthers, but none of Edison's hits went for extra bases.
"They got a couple of key hits, and we didn't get any," Bendle said. "I think the big hit was that three-run home run, and that limited what we could do. We couldn't string any hits together.
"All of the credit goes to Buckeye Local. They kept us from doing what we like to do. We couldn't get anything started. I wish them luck the rest of the way."
Individually for Edison, Kayli Stewart and Caitlin Brenstuhl each tallied two hits, Cassidy Jarvis, Ashlee Miller and Tice all recorded one hit and Maddy Hunter produced an RBI.
The Panthers opened the scoring with two-unearned runs in the first inning.
Tonkovich singled to lead off the game. Czuchran belted a line drive to center field with two outs. The ball bounced off of Hunter's glove as she tried to make a running catch. Next, Swiger smacked a double over Hunter's head, plating Tonkovich and Czuchran for the 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats missed an opportunity to score in the bottom half of the inning.
With one out, Hunter reached on a single, and she took second on a throwing error. Next, Stewart lofted the ball into center field for a base hit, but Hunter was unable to move up on the play as she waited to see if the ball was going to be caught. Starcher retired the next two batters to get out of the inning unscathed.
Edison also had two hits in the second inning, but once again the Wildcats did not get anything to show for it.
Brenstuhl started the inning off with a base hit, but she was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. After a strikeout, Tice singled, but Starcher was able to get out of the inning with another strikeout.
Buckeye Local broke the game open with four runs in the fifth.
The Panthers loaded the bases with no outs as Tonkovich walked, Marelli singled and Karlee Leonard was hit by a pitch. Next, Czuchran hit a groundball to Molly McCoy at shortstop, but McCoy's throw's got away at the plate, allowing Tonkovich to score.
The loose ball was retrieved, and Marelli was ruled out as she slid into the plate.
With the score 3-0, Swiger blasted her three-run home run to give the visitors a 6-0 advantage.
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the inning.
McCoy walked and moved to third on two wild pitches. Next, Hunter reached on an error, which enabled McCoy to score as the Wildcats cut their deficit to 6-1.
Buckeye Local tacked on three more runs in the sixth.
Tonkovich plated a run when she reached on an error, and the other two runs came on Czuchran's two-run single.
The loss ended the careers of Edison's two seniors - McCoy and Tice.
"We had two really-good seniors," Bendle said. "We had Molly McCoy and Mikayla Tice our pitcher. Mikayla was very unselfish. She shared time in the mound with our other two junior pitchers. She was fine with that. She just wanted the team to be successful.
"Molly McCoy had the most dominant year for a player I have ever had. Today was the exception. I have never had a player hit the ball as hard and as consistent as she did this year. She had a great season."
With only losing two seniors, the Wildcats will return a talented group of players for next season, many of whom saw extensive varsity action for the first time this season.
"I just told them in the dugout that we only had two seniors, and we had many, many new faces on the varsity team this year," Bendle said. "I knew it was going to be an interesting year with all of the new faces, and it was going to be interesting to see how we progressed throughout the season.
"We did become a good team at the end of the season. It took awhile. We started doing things well. We were able to put it together at the end of the season. We played a formidable schedule, and with all of the new faces I am looking forward to next season."
After taming the Wildcats, the Panthers are looking forward to taking on Big Red or the Redskins in the sectional final. Either way, Soos knows his team is in for a tough challenge.
"Absolutely," he said. "Indian Creek beat us 9-2. They scored seven runs in the bottom of the first inning. They are a great team.
"Big Red is another good team. They battle. They make you play for 21 outs. They play hard. They have done a nice job turning things around there.
"Either way, we are going to show up and do our thing."
Buckeye Local 9, Edison 1
Buckeye Local 200 043 0 - 9 6 2
Edison 000 010 0 - 1 7 4
BUCKEYE LOCAL (15-11): Starcher (WP, 6K, 2BB) and B. Zeroski; Tonkovich S, RBI; Marelli S; Czuchran S, 2RBI; Swiger D, HR, 5RBI; DeCesare S.
EDISON (17-10): Tice (LP, 5IP, 2K, 3BB), Westfall (2IP, 0K, 1BB) and Stewart; Hunter RBI; Stewart 2-S; Jarvis S; Brenstuhl 2S; Miller S, Tice S.