CHILLICOTHE — Following a closer-than-expected 8-6 sectional final win over Northwest last Friday, Darby Minor and her Westfall teammates knew they needed to refocus.
“We haven’t been as focused as we’ve needed to be in our last couple of games and it showed in the way we’ve played,” Minor said. “We want to make a tournament run and we know in order to do that we needed to bring a lot more focus (on Wednesday) and moving forward.”
The Mustangs showed their renewed focus by pounding out 16 hits and scoring in four of their five at-bats on Wednesday to run-rule Alexander 10-0 in a Division III Southeast District semifinal held at Unioto.
Top-seeded Westfall (23-5) advances to a district final on Saturday against second-seeded Ironton (25-1), a 1-0 winner over Huntington in the second semifinal last night.
Minor led a balanced effort for the Mustangs in their district semifinal win, going a perfect 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI and two runs scored. Liz Stonerock followed with a pair of singles and two RBI, and Ayzia Fullen, Sami Tackett, Maddie Mullins and Marcy Dudgeon had two hits apiece. Josie Williams doubled, drove in four runs and scored.
“We had a better approach at the plate tonight of letting the ball get deeper on us before we attacked it,” Minor said.
The win allowed the Mustangs to exorcise the memory of last year’s 10-2 loss in a district semifinal to Chesapeake.
“That left us with a bitter taste, because we played awful as a team and it cut short our season,” Dudgeon said. “We’re determined to not let that happen again, so getting through the district semifinal this time is a step in the right direction.”
The Mustangs took the lead for good in the opening inning. Minor and Fullen reached on back-to-back singles with one out. Following a strikeout, Stonerock singled to left to drive in Minor. Fullen was thrown at the plate on the play, leaving the score at 1-0.
Westfall broke the game open in the second, sending 10 batters to the plate and assembling six hits.
Tackett singled to left and advanced around to third on a double to left by Mullins. Kylee Henry then laid down a bunt, with Tackett delaying her break to home plate until the Spartans committed to throwing out Henry at first base.
Leah Ragland followed with a single to right to score courtesy runner Abbie Bickenheuser to make it 3-0.
After an infield single by Dudgeon, a walk to Minor and a pop out, Williams delivered the big blow of the inning with a three-run double off the left field fence to score Ragland, Dudgeon and Minor. Williams then came around to dent the plate on a single to center off the bat of Stonerock.
The run support was more than enough for Dudgeon, who scattered three hits over five innings and struck out seven Spartans (18-6) to earn the win.
“I know I need to have a strong approach to pitching and adjust to the different strike zones that I see,” Dudgeon said. “I felt good today and I had a lot of confidence with the defense behind me, because Mick Barney, Josie Williams and some of our other girls made nice plays for me. It’s a team effort.”
The Mustangs made it 9-0 in the third on a two-run single by Minor to score Bickenheuser and Dudgeon and completed the run-rule win in the fifth on a sacrifice fly to left off the bat of Williams to drive in Minor.
“We approached the game the way we needed to and we put together the type of clean game that leads to success this time of year,” Westfall coach Fred Redman said. “We hit from top-to-bottom, Marcy pitched a good game and then our defense was sharp in the field.
“This was much better than how we’ve played recently, but we have to replicate this moving forward.”
Westfall now turns its attention to Saturday, as it’ll try to win its second district title in three seasons and fourth overall under the tutorage of Redman.
“We talk about winning the conference and winning district every season and now we have an opportunity to also win district on Saturday,” Minor said. “If we continue to drop the attitudes and play the type of game we’re capable of, I like our chances moving forward.”