VERMILION — Firelands used a six-run fourth inning Thursday to knock off backyard rival Vermilion 8-2 and win its second straight Division II sectional softball title.
The Falcons got 14 strikeouts from senior Sam Dostall, and her batterymate, junior catcher Nicole Rainey, had three hits for the second straight game as Firelands improved to 13-11 on the season. Vermilion’s season ended at 14-12.
Dostall, delighted with the win, said she did nothing special to prepare for the Sailors.
“I look at every game the same,” said Dostall, who had a 17-strikeout game earlier in the season. “No one game is more important than another. I go out there every day and pitch my hardest and give 110 percent.”
For their trouble, the Falcons get another shot at top-seeded defending state champion Keystone in a district semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at LaGrange Community Park. Keystone, which defeated Firelands twice during the regular season, was an 8-4 winner over Rocky River on Thursday.
If Vermilion could have somehow erased the fourth inning, it would have won, 3-2. But the inning can’t be eradicated.
The Falcons scored a run in the first inning, Dostall racing home on Emma Ranney’s double. And they added one in the fifth when Rachel Leatherwood — a courtesy runner for Rainey — came home.
Vermilion’s Jessie Mello, who doubled, and Allie Hreha, running for Leigh Stainbrook who followed with an RBI single, scored in the Sailors fifth. And they added another in the seventh after AuBree LaForce reached on an infield single and came around on Jessica Tucker’s double.
The difference, then, was Firelands’ big fourth inning.
Lexi Shick and Cassidi, who singled, scored when Samantha Hribal reached on an error. Rainey, who reached with a bunt single, and Hribal ran home when Dostall drilled a one-out double. Alexis Willis, who had reached on a fielder’s choice, and Dostall also scored.
Rainey got a new bat a week or so ago.
“I don’t know if that’s helping or not,” she said.
But she went on to say that Dostall’s pitch selection was effective.
“Her riseball always works,” Rainey said.
Looking ahead to Tuesday, Firelands coach Judy Dostall said that to defeat Keystone her Falcons have to be strong on fundamentals.
“We just need to play good defense,” said Dostall, who has announced she will step down at season’s end. “We’ve given them a few unearned runs (in 2-1 and 3-1 losses this season) and we just need to make sure we don’t do that again.”
Vermilion coach Roger Wright, who starts four freshmen, praised the work of seniors LaForce and Tucker.
“Jessica Tucker was a four-year letterwinner for us and helped me turn the program around,” Wright said. “She didn’t quit today and came back and hit that double. AuBree LaForce went out there for her teammates in the seventh inning and fought to score that third run. They’re just two great kids and I’ve had a lot of fun coaching them over the past four years.”
Tucker had four hits and LaForce had two.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.