LAGRANGE — Dynamite probably understates the explosion Firelands detonated Friday at LaGrange Community Park.
Nuclear is probably closer.
Trailing Clearview 1-0 six outs from elimination, the Falcons resumed their Division II district softball final in the home half of the sixth inning.
The blast was large and memorable.
Firelands (18-11) batted around, scored four runs on five hits and then set Clearview down in order in the seventh. The result was a 4-1 victory and the first district championship in the history of the program. The game started Thursday, but was suspended after 5½ innings because of rain.
Firelands defeated Clearview on Monday in a final Patriot Athletic Conference crossover game. The Clippers, who were also playing for their first district crown, finished the season 14-11.
The Falcons advance to the Bucyrus regional at 5 p.m. Thursday. They will face either Caledonia River Valley or Granville. Those teams meet at 5 p.m. today for the Pickerington district title.
Firelands coach Judy Dostall, who has announced she will step down at season’s end, was overjoyed. The Falcons had advanced to district finals several times over the years, but seemed always to be ousted by Keystone. They shed that burden with a 1-0 semifinal victory over the Wildcats on Wednesday.
“This is the first time Firelands has ever gotten out of districts,” Dostall said.
“That’s huge. I told the girls on the bus (Thursday) night on the way back to the school, ‘Girls, I don’t want our season to end and I hope you don’t want our season to end. Come ready to play and hit the ball.’ That’s all I said and they came ready to play.”
Clippers coach Denny Myers was impressed by the way Firelands played so assertively, after being held scoreless through its first five at-bats Thursday.
“They beat us and they’re a good team,” he said. “Give them credit. I hope they do well and that they represent our area really well when they go to Bucyrus and hopefully beyond. I have a lot of respect for Judy (Dostall) and her whole team.”
Firelands’ winning rally started quickly and impressively.
Amanda Spears, who scored the winning run against Keystone, led off and hit the first pitch for a double to the left-field fence.
“Coach has always told us that hitting is contagious, and I knew we needed something big to start off the inning and get the girls going,” Spears said. “I was lucky enough to get that opportunity. I had that perfect low pitch and took advantage of it.”
Lexi Shick sacrificed Spears to third and Spears scored on Nicole Rainey’s single to left.
Cassidi Kowalski then walked and the Falcons loaded the bases when Samantha Hribal put down a nifty bunt.
Asked if she is a good bunter, Hribal said: “I wouldn’t say so. It was a lucky bunt, I would say.”
Speaking of nifty bunts, Alexis Willis followed with a nearly perfect bunt that scored Rachel Leatherwood, a courtesy runner for Rainey. Then with two outs, pitcher Sam Dostall applied the coup de grace, a two-run single that sent Kowalski and Hribal home.
Dostall said the only thing she thought of after Spears’ leadoff double was the Falcons needed to send her home.
“The rest of us need to back her up and punch that run across,” she said.
As for pitching the seventh inning, she said: “I just wanted to do my best and put the ball where they can’t hit it. If they do, put it in a place where my defense can make plays. They’ve been great this whole tournament run and I knew if (the Clippers) put the ball in play, they had my back.”
Dostall pitched a two-hitter and finished with a dozen strikeouts for her 11th win of the season. Clearview’s run was unearned. Through the first five innings, Clippers pitcher Sarah Kaya scattered four hits and struck out four. She kept the Falcons off balance to the point that they left runners in scoring position in every inning but the third.
Willis and Spears each had three hits for the Falcons, two of Spears were doubles.