A mighty swing of Erica Zachrich’s bat was all it took for Angola to nail down its third consecutive NECC softball tournament championship last Friday evening at Prairie Heights.
Zachrich pounded a two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning to give the Lady Hornets a 2-1 lead over Lakeland in the title tilt. Zachrich then retired six of the final eight Lady Laker batters she faced in the pitcher’s circle to complete the Angola triumph.
“What a sensational game between NECC rivals,” said Angola skipper Christopher Schuler after the game. “This was a pitcher’s duel to say the least and we got some great defensive plays throughout.”
Lakeland hurler Ashlynn Grubb was magnificent in defeat, striking out 10 Lady Hornets and walking three. Other than Zachrich and Maddie Kaiser (who scored on Zachrich’s blast), Grubb did not allow an Angola runner past second base.
The Lady Lakers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Grubb opened the frame with a double, advanced to third on an infield hit by Lexie Myers, the scored on a wild pitch.
With only one out, Lakeland looked to be in line to put more runs on the board. However, courtesy runner Karissa Troyer was cut down at the plate while trying to score on a ground ball.
The Angola sixth inning started innocuously enough, as Tori Smith popped out to third base. But after Kaiser drew a walk, Zachrich stepped to the plate and deposited a Grubb delivery deep over the left-center field fence to give the Lady Hornets the lead.
Lakeland put two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but a grounder back to Zachrich thwarted the threat. In the seventh, two stellar plays by shortstop Angel Hedglin and the last of seven strikeouts by Zachrich ended the Lady Laker title hopes.
Hedglin and Zachrich each collected two hits for the 11-5 Lady Hornets. Grubb lined two safeties for the 10-6 Lady Lakers.
Lakeland reached the championship game thanks to a 7-5 victory over county rival Prairie Heights in the semifinal round Thursday night in LaGrange.
Grubb, Jill Mingus and Kizzie Trinh each poked RBI hits during a five-run first inning for the Lady Lakers. Two more runs came home when the Lady Panthers misplayed a pop-up off the bat of Hannah Myers.
Heights came back with four runs in the fourth to slice the Lakeland lead to one. A double by Shawna Carbone delivered two of the Lady Panther markers.
The Lady Lakers would tack on insurance runs in the fourth and fifth frames on a sacrifice fly by Lexie Myers and a fielder’s choice by Abby Bustos. Prairie Heights put the tying runs on base with two outs in the seventh, but a fine, running catch by Trinh in right field squelched the Lady Panther rally.
Morgan Meyers had two hits to pace Lakeland at the plate. Jordan Engel-Walworth led Heights with three hits, while Kayla Feeney totaled two.
Grubb struckout eight and walked two in logging the pitching win. Lady Panther hurler Taryn Neff fanned three and walked three.