Toronto falls short against Tigers
MINERVA — Not even a howling wind blowing in from center field that kicked up the infield sod all game long and played havoc with fly balls and popups could keep the state-ranked Strasburg softball team from winning a district championship.
Junior leftfielder Emily Rieger and senior pitcher Hannah Duff, along with the rest of the Tigers, overcame those obstacles for a 9-2 win over Toronto for the Division IV title at Minerva Middle School on Thursday.
Strasburg, ranked No. 7 in the final coaches poll and the No. 1 seed in the district, improved to 20-7 and will play either Danville or Granville Christian Academy in a regional semifinal Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Pickerington Central High School. Those two teams play Saturday for a district title as well.
Toronto, the No. 2 seed, ended up 19-9.
Strasburg jumped on the Red Knights for four runs in the second and four more in the fourth to take control.
Rieger led the winners offensively as she drove in three runs with a two-out, two-run single in the second and added an RBI single in the fourth, while Duff scatttered three hits and fanned eight in going the distance in the circle.
“It’s nice to be playing on,” said Strasburg head coach Bud Weisgarber, whose team will be playing in the regional for a 27th time in his 32 years as the head coach. “I don’t think it (the wind) gave an advantage to either team, but it was nasty out there at times.”
Strasburg got on the board first in the second when Hannah Reifenschneider hit a windblown popup to center that scored a run and Emalee Nave added an RBI groundout for a 2-0 advantage.
The big hit in the frame came when Rieger, who is playing with a strained hip flexor, delivered a two-out, two-run single up the middle to double the Tigers lead to 4-0.
“It hurts, but I was going to play through it,” said Rieger. “I just want to be out there.”
“I had a successful season last year and feel I need to keep it up,” Rieger said of the Tigers, who finished as the state runner-up last June. “We have some unfinished business, and we know it won’t be easy, but we still have a chance to get there and change the outcome.”
Toronto head coach Steve Trifonoff said his team made too many miscues that aided the Strasburg cause.
“You can’t give any team, especially one like Strasburg, extra outs, but that’s what we did,” Trifonoff said of his team’s five errors. “We played them a lot better than we did last year.”
Strasburg blanked Toronto 15-0 in five innings in the sectional opener a year ago.
“They had a couple of windblown balls, but so did we,” said Trifonoff. “I think the wind might have helped us because some of the balls they hit would have been gone any other day.”
Toronto made it a 4-1 game in the third inning when the Red Knights scored a run on one of three Strasburg errors.
But the Tigers took control in the fourth when Rieger smacked an RBI single, Taeshauna Alleshouse followed with a two-run single and Emma Clark drilled an RBI double to put the home team up 8-1.
The Red Knights got a run back on a sacrifice fly by Serena Burkey after loading the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth, but the Jefferson County bunch was unable to get any more runs.
The Tigers tacked on one more run in the bottom of the frame when Zoey Thomas doubled and later scored from third after Reifenschneider put a ball in play to the pitcher and she went to first for the out.
Leading 9-2, Duff nailed down the win as her eighth-and-final strikeout came between fly balls to left and right, sending the Tigers to the regional.
Desiree Meadows started and took the loss for the Red Knights.