GUYS MILLS — When looking back at the 2019 campaign, the Maplewood Tigers softball team’s season can easily be described as a Jekyll and Hyde experience with respect to its defensive play.
One day after playing a clean defense game in their regular-season finale against Harbor Creek, which featured two successfully turned double plays, the Maplewood defense committed five errors which helped the visiting Wilmington Greyhounds come away with a 7-3 victory in Friday’s District 10 Class 2A First Round contest.
“Our defense didn’t show up,” Maplewood coach Beth Proper said. “It looked like a different team than yesterday. That’s par for the course. We didn’t know which group was going to show up. We defensively did not show up. (Wilmington) didn’t make the mistakes we made, and that was the difference in the game.”
Wilmington tallied two unearned runs off of those Maplewood errors. However, the Tigers couldn’t defend the two home runs launched by Greyhounds catcher Taylor Dlugozima. The sophomore belted a two-run bomb in the first inning that hit the trees beyond the left field fence and then a solo shot in the fourth inning.
After Dlugozima’s first long ball of the afternoon, the Tigers offense was trying to play catch up for the rest of the aqffair.
Wilmington hurler Remington Koi escaped a first-inning threat when Maplewood got back-to-back singles from Kirsten Motter and Maddie Woge with one out. However, Koi prevented either runner from crossing the plate by getting the next two hitters out. That started a stretch of eight consecutive Tigers retired — five of those via the strikeout.
Meanwhile, Wilmington’s offense tallied a couple of insurance runs on a pair of two-out RBI hits by Koi. The sophomore helped herself by driving home Jaclyn Flick twice on a double in the second frame and a single in the fourth stanza, putting Wilmington ahead, 4-0.
Maplewood got one run back in the bottom of the fourth inning when Woge connected for her second home run of the season — a solo homer over the centerfield fence. However, Wilmington tallied three more runs in the fifth frame to get its lead up to 7-1 in part from Dlugozima’s second homer and an RBI double by Ella Krarup.
The Tigers threatened once again in their half of the fifth. Olivia Leech and Motter reached base via Greyhound errors and were on first and second base with two outs. With Woge due to bat, already with two hits on the day, Wilmington’s coaching staff decided to intentionally walk the Tiger catcher to load the bases. The move paid off as Koi punched out the next batter to escape the inning unscathed.
Olivia Leech got the Tigers back within four runs when the lone Maplewood senior belted her second home run of the campaign in the bottom of the sixth frame. Leech’s two-run home run scored Olivia Crowther, who reached base with a one-out single, and wound up being her final career at-bat.
“(Olivia) is such a hard worker, and she earned that,” Proper said. “Everyday she works harder and harder, and she doesn’t take a day off. It showed today.”
Maplewood didn’t go away easy in its final chance at the plate. Chloe Leech started the frame with a single. Following a strikeout, Woge was intentionally walked again to put runners at first and second base. However, Wilmington was able to hold on by recording the final two outs to advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinal against Sharpsville.
Koi finished with nine strikeouts en route to earning the victory in the circle for Wilmington. She surrendered three runs on seven hits and two walks. In the batter’s box, Koi recorded three hits and two RBIs.
Breanna Sterling started and pitched the first four innings in her varsity playoff debut. The sophomore allowed four runs on six hits while striking out three batters. Paige Whitehair tossed the final three frames, giving up three runs (one earned) on two hits and one walk.
Maplewood finished the 2019 campaign with a 10-9 record, and will have plenty of experience back next year. Proper felt her club ended the season playing quality softball.
“I felt the last two and a half weeks we really played our (style of) ball,” Proper said. “We played together and as a team. They didn’t give up in any game this year no matter how bad they may have been losing. We (as coaches) told them that we were proud of that.”