JUNE 1, 2013 - TIPP CITY
|Cassidy Cain makes a running grab in shallow left field.
|Coach Dean Denlinger talks to his girls about the opportunity that's ahead in the state tournament.
Story by Josh Brown - Troy Daily News
Not used to getting hit hard or at all and knowing Triad’s penchant for coming from behind after its regional semifinal win, Covington’s Casey Yingst didn’t falter.
“I felt fine,” she said after the Cardinals piled up seven hits in the final three innings. “We had the lead, and the defense behind me is flawless.
“You can’t panic.”
Shortstop Cassidy Cain certainly didn’t.
With the tying runs on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Jenna Welty hit a slow grounder to short. Cain was forced to take it on an in-between hop and momentarily bobbled the ball but she recovered quickly and made a heads-up play to toss it to third to get the game-ending force and send the Buccaneers to their third straight state tournament after a 4-2 win in Saturday’s Division IV regional championship in Tipp City.
“I knew (third baseman) Heidi (Snipes) would be there, and I knew the other two girls were too fast to get. I only had the one play,” Cain said.
And even in that situation, in such a big game and after a brief bobble, Cain still easily kept her head and made the play.
“I was just focused,” Cain said. “You can’t think about it at a time like that. You just have to do it.”
“She (Cain) makes those plays all the time,” Yingst said. “I wasn’t worried at all.”
And that kind of attitude to go along with heaps of talent is exactly how the top-ranked Buccaneers have piled up a 30-0 record this season, and it’s exactly why they’re moving on to Thursday’s state semifinal game for a third straight season, where they will play Strasburg-Franklin.
And while the majority of those wins have been blowouts, including a 17-0 laugher in the district final against Franklin Monroe and a 10-0 win over Marion Local in the regional semifinal in which Yingst threw a no-hitter every time Covington has been tested this season, it’s aced it.
“This is the way it’s supposed to be,” Covington coach Dean Denlinger said. “We always tell the girls that you can’t run-rule everybody. The regional final is supposed to be a tough game, and I think this can only help us next week.
“And we even had an off-day at the plate today. We had a couple of chances to put extra runs on the board, and we just didn’t execute.”
The Buccs only had seven hits in the game the first time all year they’ve had less than 10. But they made enough of them count early on.
Connor Schaffer reached on an error to lead off the top of the second, but Triad which finished the year a deceptive 13-17 after being forced to forfeit double digits-worth in games due to using an illegal player earlier in the year got the lead runner out on a force play. After a pop out for the second out, Brittanie Flora stole second and took third on an errant pickoff attempt. Haley Adams then came through with the game’s first hit, a clutch two-out single to drive in the first run.
Adams then kicked off the next rally in the fourth, beating out a two-out infield single, which was followed by a bloop single by Cain. Adams broke for third and made it safely, and Cain took second on the throw. A wild pitch allowed Adams to score, but Cain was caught rounding third too far to end the inning. Still, Covington led 2-0. And with Yingst cruising, that two runs seemed like plenty. Yingst struck out three and allowed only one baserunner on an error through the first four innings, and she seemed poised to toss another no-hitter.
After a leadoff single by Heidi Cron and a walk to Jessie Shilt to start the fifth, the Buccs looked poised to deliver a knockout blow. But the lead runner got caught in a rundown after faking stealing third, and a fielder’s choice that again got the lead runner left the Buccs with a runner on first with two outs.
Yingst came through, though, hammering the first pitch she saw off the base of the fence in left for an RBI triple, and two pitches later another passed ball allowed that run to score, as well, giving the Buccs a 4-0 lead.
“It’s about time,” Yingst said of the big hit.
Triad chose that time to wake up.
Jenna Ober singled up the middle with one out in the fifth for the Cardinals’ first hit, and Chelsea Price followed with another single. But Yingst got one of her eight strikeouts on the day and a flyout to center to end that inning.
Maddi Ehrenborg then led off the sixth with a single, Welty singled and Dayna Ober hit an RBI double to the right-center gap to give Triad its first run. Hannah Watkins then grounded out to second to bring home another run, and a flyout to right ended the inning with a runner stranded on third.
Yingst got the first two hitters in the seventh out, but nine-hitter Summer Detrick blooped in a single to keep the game going, and Ehrenborg drew Yingst’s only walk of the game but the Buccs didn’t panic, Cain got the lead runner at third by a step and Covington celebrated.
“Three trips to state in three years. That’s impressive,” Denlinger said. “And now we can talk about what we’ll do there now that we’re going. I’m pretty superstitious, so we haven’t talked about that until today. The girls played well today, and they played hard.”
And while they’ve been to Akron three straight years, the Buccs still have the perfect mix of excitement and focus on what comes next.
“It’s still awesome,” Yingst said. “Not many teams get to go at all. To do it three times in a row is remarkable. But we’ve still got unfinished business, too.”
“It’s exciting, but we want to win it this year,” Cain said. “We want to make this year different.”
Covington .... 010 120 0 4 7 1
Triad ........... 000 002 0 2 7 2