AKRON — Columbia didn’t change anything Saturday during its first appearance on softball’s biggest stage.
The Raiders played the same way they played all season — battling until the final out.
But Columbia ran out of innings before it could figure out Bloom-Carroll pitcher Tarin Alvelo and a frantic seventh-inning rally wasn’t enough in a 3-2 loss in the Division III championship at Firestone Stadium.
Columbia (29-5) became the first team in school history to advance to a state tournament.
“I feel like we lost a game we should have won, but either way I know I have a championship team here with me,” Columbia coach Ken Lugo said. “This team fought until the end and did all I could ask of them this season, and I am proud of them for all they accomplished.
“We reacted a little late (to the speed of Alvelo’s pitches) and when we finally adjusted our contact point it was too late. If we had one more inning, I think the final score could have been different.”
Alvelo — a sophomore who has already orally committed to the University of Washington — retired the first 15 Columbia hitters before Crystal Fetchet reached base on an error by second baseman McKenna Coffman to lead off the sixth inning. Two hitters later, Becky Rose got the Raiders’ first hit with a chopper that bounded high over third base and into left field. Rose was an unlikely catalyst for the Columbia offense after having only 11 plate appearances this season.
Before Columbia got its first hit, Bloom-Carroll had already struck for three runs.
The Bulldogs (29-3), who were also state champions in 2006 and ’07, scored all of their runs in the fifth inning.
Junior Abby Grover led off the inning with a double, Kaylee Springer reached base on an error and Grover scored the first run on a Katie Silvia fielder’s choice. McKenna Coffman followed with a single that scored Springer and Silvia, and just like that the Raiders allowed three runs in a game for just the second time in their last 13 games.
“The first time through the batting order everyone was coming back to the dugout almost in shock saying, ‘Who is this girl, she is so good,’” Raiders senior second baseman Emma Sullivan said. “We just needed to react and make adjustments earlier and we didn’t do that.”
Alvelo struck out the first five Columbia hitters and finished the game with 12 strikeouts, ending the year with a total of 363 in 188⅓ innings.
Senior center fielder Kaley Marshall led off the Columbia seventh inning with a double to right-center field and for a moment it looked like the Raiders might have found some late-inning magic.
“It was great going into the seventh inning we had Nos. 2-5 coming up in the batting order — all the seniors,” Marshall said. “We were just saying, ‘We got this, this is our final high school at-bat. Let’s go out and do something.’”
Sullivan followed Marshall’s double by reaching base on a fielder’s choice before catcher Christine Lyzen delivered the Raiders’ big hit — a double to center field that scored Marshall and Sullivan and brought cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 3-2.
But when Fetchet’s two-out fly ball landed in the glove of Bloom-Carroll right fielder Ashlee Ireland it was the end of the road for Columbia.
“That last at-bat I finally listened to coach Lugo, got back in the box, watched my contact point and finally was able to relax in the batter’s box,” Lyzen said.
Bloom-Carroll was playing in its second straight championship game after losing to Warren Champion 2-0 last year. Minarchick, who held the Bulldogs to four hits, is already hoping her team can make a return trip to Akron next season.
“I’m so glad we made it this far this season,” Minarchick said. “I’m ready for the challenge of coming back.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.