FAIRVIEW PARK — Survive and advance is all that matters.
Sixth-seeded Buckeye knocked off third-seeded Fairview 8-7 in a LaGrange Division II Sectional Final on Thursday and will play in the district semifinals for the second year in a row and third time in four seasons.
The Bucks (12-13) overcame a runner thrown out at third and home and made six errors against the Warriors (10-13).
Next up is second-seeded Holy Name, which beat seventh-seeded Cloverleaf 11-0, on Wednesday at LaGrange Community Park.
The game may be moved due to Medina County Career Center graduation.
“It’s perseverance,” Buckeye coach Howie Calame said. “I think the girls have it in them. We just haven’t had to do it in a while. I told them not one person was going to win this game. It was going to take the whole team.”
Seven Bucks recorded a hit, five drove in a run and seven scored.
On a team loaded with veterans, the win came largely in part to a youth movement. Freshmen Aleah Powers and Kaydee Clark went 5-for-8 with three RBIs, while sophomore Clare Mewhinney was 2-for-4 with a run and picked up the win in relief.
“They’ve played ball ever since they were little,” Calame said. “They’re my first, second and third batters, so obviously I trust them. I’ve got a few other hitters, but they’ve got speed and they’ve got enthusiasm.
“Today, you saw the good and bad in them. (Powers and Clark) each got thrown out once on the basepaths, but they didn’t let it get them down. They each had a big, big part of the win.”
The trio showed moxie.
Trailing 5-3 in the sixth, the youngsters went to work. Powers brought Buckeye closer with a single that scored Bekah Kemp, and Clark followed with a two-run single.
The Bucks never trailed again.
“I was telling myself to look the ball in, see it and hit it,” Clark said. “It gave me confidence because I knew we could do it.”
Groundout RBIs from Kemp and Illes in the top of the seventh pushed the lead to 8-5. The runs turned out to be important.
“We learned to always know it’s not the end,” Powers said. “There’s always time. We were confident and we knew that no matter what happened we could still go farther.”
The Bucks will go farther thanks to the fortitude of Mewhinney.
Lauryn Leslie’s two-RBI single with no one out in the seventh made it a one-run game. An error and a hit by pitch loaded the bases before Adrianna Bunk flew out to center field.
Forced into action when Kayla Whitmer was hit on the knee in the third, Mewhinney (5-4) went 4 ⅔ innings. She gave up four runs (2 earned) on four hits and struck out one.
“The win earlier in the season (8-3 on April 22) gave us a lot of confidence,” Mewhinney said. “We knew we could hit (their pitcher). We knew we could beat them. It was just about coming together.
“We weren’t ready at first, but our confidence grew. Once we got the lead, we knew we could hold. We didn’t have to rush everything. We just had to focus.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.