Perrysburgs’ Kylie Griggs throws to first base.
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AKRON — The No. 2 ranked Perrysburg girls softball team had put together a season for the ages, reaching the state final four with fundamentally sound play and clutch hitting.
But in the Division I state semifinals on Thursday the Yellow Jackets committed uncharacteristic base running errors and left too many runners stranded on base.
Perrysburg (30-3) ultimately saw its hopes of reaching the state title game dashed in a tough 2-1 to West Chester Lakota West in eight innings at Firestone Stadium.
Perrysburg led 1-0 after one inning and out-hit the Firebirds 7-5. But it was the only run the Yellow Jackets could produce as they left eight runners on base.
No. 6 ranked Lakota West (26-3) tied it at 1 in the second inning and then the game remained that way, going to extra innings. Lakota West senior shortstop Allie Cummins then smacked a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning for the eventual game-clinching run.
“We weren't as focused as we needed to be,” Perrysburg coach Ryan DeMars said. “We made some mental errors that cost us. We were not being who we have been. We had our chances. Honestly, if we only give up two runs in eight innings, we have to be able to win that game.”
Perrysburg senior pitcher Bri Pratt (24-1) suffered her first loss of the season despite striking out six batters and allowing only five hits over eight innings.
“Our season was amazing,” Pratt said. “I couldn't be more proud of everyone. Everything was going as planned. But we just didn't come out today. They were ready to play and we did not step up. But I couldn't be more proud of the girls. They've been my family.”
In their last at-bat, the Yellow Jackets had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the eighth when Mars Deemer doubled with one out. However, Perrysburg pinch runner Jordyn Bogdanski was thrown out at second after scrambling back on an infield, pop-up single by Pratt.
“We did not execute when we needed to and we made mistakes that cost us,” DeMars said. “Obviously we were in a different environment. But that's part of it. The other team is in the same environment.”
Lakota West pitcher Stephanie Maldonado, who struck out just one Perrysburg batter, then got her 13th pop out of the game to end it.
Pratt, who earned All-Ohio first team honors last season, stranded Firebirds runners at third base in four of the first six innings. Pratt, who will play at Miami (Ohio) next season, coaxed 16 ground-outs. She also went 2 for 4 at the plate.
But Cummins, who earned all-state first team honors last season and will play at the University of Akron and come in leading the Firebirds with a .598 batting average, hit her ninth home run of the season.
“You know when you hit it,” Cummins said. “It's the highlight of my career. I was looking for a pitch I could make contact with. The intention wasn't to hit it over the fence. The intention was to get on base.”
Pratt said the pitch was a change-up.
“It was supposed to bounce. But it did not,” she said.
Perrysburg, which won a second consecutive Northern Lakes League championship, had won 17 games in a row.
Perrysburg struck first with one run in the bottom of the first inning. Senior shortstop Brooke Miller, who was phenomenal in the field, came up with an RBI single. Miller drove in Kylie Griggs, who had led off the inning with a walk.
Deemer also singled during the early uprising. But she was then thrown out at third when she overran the base on Miller's single. It was one of three base running errors that came back to haunt a Yellow Jackets team known for its aggressive but solid base running.
Members of the Perrysburg softball team after a 2-1 loss to Lakota West in Thursday's Division I state semifinal at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
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Deemer went 2 for 4.
“I could not be any more grateful than I am that I'm here,” Deemer said. “The girls are amazing. They gave me a second family. I love and respect the seniors. I could not be more thankful.”
Lakota West tied it at 1 on one hit in the second inning after a lead-off walk came around to score. Pratt stranded three runners to get out of the jam, however.
“Bri did a great job for us. She's done a great job for us all year long,” DeMars said. “Our defense stepped up when it needed to. Our defense was great. I liked where we were. We just couldn't get the offense clicking today.”
Miller made a good play to keep a hard shot drilled right at her at shortstop, keeping the ball in front of her and not allowing the runners to advance. Pratt then got the next batter to ground-out to first, limiting the damage.
“It's been a good experience coming here,” Miller said. “It's a once in a lifetime thing. It was really cool to make it this far because we've worked so hard. I'm really proud of this team.”
After throwing 32 pitches in the second inning, Pratt had a very efficient third. She sent the side down in order on eight pitches in the third.
Miller made several outstanding plays in the field. She got to a bouncing ball over the pitcher's head to strand a runner at third in the fifth.
Pratt got a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh on just eight pitches with one strikeout and two groundouts.
Perrysburg stranded four runners over three innings late in the game. A lead-off single by Pratt in the sixth did not result in a run after three quick outs.
The Yellow Jackets were making their third appearance in the state final four under ideal weather conditions. Perrysburg captured the D-I state title in 1991 after finishing as state runner-up in 1990.
Lakota West, which also reached the state semifinals in 2011, 2006 and 2005, has won 13 games in a row.
Firebirds coach Keith Castner called it a great game, well played by both sides.
“Both pitchers pitched well. There was great fielding by both sides. We just happened to come up with the big hit in extra innings,” Castner said.
Lakota West advances to play the winner of the second state semifinal between No. 10 Ashville Teays Valley (23-3) and No. 8 Massillon Perry (23-5). The state final is set for Saturday here at 1 p.m.
“I'm extremely proud of our girls and the season they put together,” DeMars said. “Obviously we wanted to come here and win. But a state final four appearance is awesome and it's something no one will ever be able to take away from these girls.”
DeMars, who is in his ninth season, will lose just four seniors.
“This is a step in a wonderful direction for our program,” he said. “The younger players can look to aspire to this. We'll work really hard to get back here.”
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