LAGRANGE — Keystone defeated Buckeye for the third time this season Friday afternoon, but this time it was different.
For one thing, it secured the second-ranked Wildcats’ 27th district championship — 13th in the last 14 seasons — and a spot in the Division II regional tournament in Bucyrus next week.
And unlike the first two Patriot Athletic Conference games, this one wasn’t cut short by the 10-run mercy rule. Keystone (27-3) won the first two 14-3 and 10-0.
This time the score was a much more respectable 5-1. Buckeye refused to fold and two Bucks pitchers held the Wildcats to six hits.
Two of the hits, however, were two-run, fence-clearing home runs, one each by sophomore Destiny Weber and senior Carleigh Herrington. The fifth run scored on freshman Sammie Stefan’s double down the left-field line in the fifth inning.
The Wildcats took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on Weber’s two-out homer that drove Summer Constable home. Constable led off the inning with a bunt single.
“There wasn’t much to it,” Weber said of the bomb. “I was seeing the ball well and I knew before the game that I needed to keep my head down and swing to extension. That’s what I did. Buckeye did a good job of mixing up (pitching) planes. They’d throw high, then come back low. I needed to be smart and pick my pitch.”
Buckeye starter Maggie Calame settled down and held Keystone hitless the next two innings. But the Wildcats put it out of reach in the fifth.
Weber walked to lead off the inning and Herrington, facing a 3-and-1 count, blasted her home run to straightaway center field.
“We had a runner in scoring position and Coach P. (Jim Piazza) pulled me aside and said, ‘This is the time I need a senior to step up,’” said Herrington, who played on her home field for the last time. “Regardless, I was just up there trying to get a hit, because that’s what we needed. It clicked and the ball went over.”
At that point, Buckeye coach Howard Calame relieved his junior daughter with senior Chrissy Nichols. It was too late.
“I think I left her in for one too many batters,” he said.
“They’ve (Nichols and Maggie Calame) been back and forth the whole season and they both deserved to pitch. I thought we’d change it up a little bit, and I felt Maggie would be a change right at the beginning.
“She did well except for the one home run, and the second one was my mistake,” Calame said. “I was thinking, ‘Shall I bring Chrissy in now?’ But, like I said, I waited one too many batters.”
The Bucks (12-12) scored with two outs in the fifth after Mary Spengler singled and took second on the play. Spengler scored when the Wildcats couldn’t handle a Brianna Matras’ infield grounder.
After 12 straight district titles and a third state championship in 2012, Keystone was derailed in a district semifinal last year by Firelands. Piazza said he is happy to be headed back to Bucyrus, where Keystone will take on either Maumee or Sandusky Perkins at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“When you get to this level, it’s a whole different atmosphere and everybody treats it like it’s a state championship,” Piazza said. “I told the girls we have a double jeopardy because everybody wants to beat us. We did some nice things, but we still have to improve. Give Buckeye credit. They hung in there.”
Howard Calame gave credit to his team.
“The girls were locked in it the whole game,” he said. “I told them I believed in them and we played seven good innings. They didn’t kill us in any one inning. I’m proud of the girls. They played their hearts out and obviously we got beat by the better team today.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.