NEW PHILADELPHIA - River arrived at Tuscarawas Central High School on Tuesday knowing a couple of things.
The Pilots realized they were a heavy underdog to defending state champion Strasburg and also knew that if they had hopes of advancing to Thursday's Division IV district title game, they'd need to turn in a near flawless game.
Seven errors isn't anywhere near the kind of effort needed when tangling with the state's top-ranked club and the end result was a 6-1 setback, ending River's season with a 20-10 record, while Strasburg returns to meet the host Saints for a trip to the regional.
PHOTO BY SETH STASKEY
River first baseman Anna Rufener holds up the ball to try to get an out call on Strasburg runner Caitlin Gessner. Gessner was safe on the play.
''That's the fastest team we've ever faced,'' River coach Dave Wright said. ''Their speed made us hurry things and caused us to do things we normally don't do. We weren't intimidated, but we tried to hurry too much.''
The Pilots fell behind by virtue of that Tigers speed and aggressiveness on the bath paths. Kylie Flickinger raced home on a delayed steal, putting Strasburg on the board first.
Strasburg took advantage of two hits and three errors en route to building the lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the third. Aniel Jones had a RBI single and Flickinger plated a run on a sacrifice fly.
''It's bunt, bunt, bunt and they're just that fast,'' Wright said. ''Anytime you play a team of that caliber and you give them more than three outs in an inning, you're in trouble ... and we were in trouble.''
The Tigers, who had just two hits to the outfield all afternoon, made it 6-0 in the fourth, which chased Pilots starter Renae Riley from the circle. Riley worked 3.1 innings and suffered the loss.
Sophomore Gabby Goudy came on in relief and slammed the door on Strasburg, not allowing a hit and fanning five.
''If you take the two pitchers and even though we had the errors, we only gave up the six runs,'' Wright noted.
River broke up the shutout in the sixth. Hayley Bowers, a freshman all-state candidate, came through again when she rifled a shot back through the middle to score Goudy. The RBI was Bowers' 62nd of the season, which ties her for sixth all-time in in the OHSAA record book for a single season.
The Pilots left the bases loaded in that inning against Strasburg pitcher Kristna LaRocca, who was shaken up by Bowers' shot as the ball caught her in the pitching hand. She went the distance fanning eight, walking one and surrendering four hits.
Along with Bowers' RBI single, classmate Mackenzie Marshall had a book-rule double and a single. Left fielder Stephanie Murcdock had a single.
''This was a pretty good season for us,'' Wright said. ''We had a good mixture of young and old (players). We're certainly going to miss our seniors. We had to do things at a little higher caliber (against Strasburg) than maybe we were ready.
''We had three freshmen on the infield who were playing pee-wee ball last year, to playing against the defending state champions, and I thought we did a commendable job.''