In a classic pitchers' duel, it was a home run that proved to be the difference in Bucyrus' 2-1 victory over Oak Harbor in the softball Division III District Semifinal at Clyde High School last week.
Lady Red pitcher Taylor Rossman almost single-handedly won the game for her team, hitting the game-winning home run in the bottom of the seventh while allowing one unearned run on three hits in seven innings of work. Her blast to left field to lead off the bottom half of the inning sailed just a few feet over the fence, putting Bucyrus into the district final and sending the Rockets home after a hard-fought game that saw both teams struggle at the plate.
The Lady Red got on the board in the bottom of the first when Nikki Tuttle doubled to left with one out and Laney Mollenkopf drove her in with a single to right with two outs to make it 1-0.
Oak Harbor, which finished with just three hits, scored its only run in the fourth on a wild sequence of events. Emma Bergman, who led off the inning with a single, stole second and third to get herself into scoring position. A wild pitch, which was quickly recovered by the catcher, resulted in Bergman getting caught in between third and home, only to see the catcher throw the ball away, allowing the Oak Harbor freshman to score and tie the game. Ultimately, Bergman's aggressiveness threw off the timing and concentration of the Bucyrus catcher.
"I think this game was a microcosm for how we play," Rawski said. "I think we are tough, gritty, determined, and we scratch and claw to try and score runs." Though this loss was hard to take, Rawski knows that it could be a stepping stone for his program. "I think next year we can point to this and say, 'We can do this a little better,'" he said. "This is one of those marker games where you say, 'This is where we learn. This is where we take the next step.' As painful as it is, you have to reference it."
Bergman was nearly as good as Rossman in the circle, allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits in six innings of work. She struck out two and did not walk a batter. Rossman, meanwhile, allowed one unearned run on three hits in seven innings. She struck out 12 and walked a batter.
The Rockets, who finished with six wins in a difficult Sandusky Bay Conference, had some marquee wins this season. They defeated state-ranked New Riegel, Stuebenville Catholic Central and won close contests against Genoa, Lake and St. Ursula. Though they experienced their share of sets, Oak Harbor played very well when it counted most in the tournament.
Theresa Stokes and Justine Webb, both of whom were three-year starters for the Rockets, will graduate later this month knowing that they were instrumental in helping to turn around the program.
"It's really satisfying seeing where we've come to where it was before Coach Rawski got here," Stokes said. "The program has a really bright future for our younger players. Coach Rawski showed us how good we can be and how far we can make it. It's really shown the last three years. He really is a great supporter in what we've done. He showed us that we came this far and showed us that the program can for farther."
"I think it's really exciting because it felt really great to have a part in starting this (turnaround)," Webb said. "I know it's going to grow after me and Theresa are gone. It will be interesting to see how far (the team) goes. We are capable of so much more than our results (this year)."
Rawski appreciated everything the two brought to the table over the past three years. "They do everything you ask of them," Rawski said. "They've been great leaders for us on and off the field. My heart goes out to them in a game like this (because) you want to win every game for them. We're going to miss them."