After not scoring more than four runs in any of their first five tournament games, the Kenton Ridge Cougars crossed the plate six times in the first inning alone Saturday against Greenville.
It was all the offense Kenton Ridge would get, and all the offense it would need as the team held on for a 6-2 victory at Mason to capture the Division II regional championship and the program’s first trip to state since 2003.
“It’s really exciting,” said Kenton Ridge coach and 1998 graduate Sarah Ivory. “It brings back memories from when I played. It’s exciting to go back again as a coach, especially at my alma mater.”
The Cougars (30-2) will take a 19-game winning streak and a No. 3 state ranking to Akron, where they will play No. 6 Granville (24-6) at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals.
Defending state runner-up Greenville, which was ranked No. 1 in the final state poll, finished the season with a 25-7 record and plenty of regrets about a first inning in which the Wave allowed five hits, five stolen bases, three wild pitches and two walks.
“You can’t hit the rest button in life,” Greenville coach Jerrod Newland said. “When things start snowballing downhill, you’ve got to be tough enough to stop it. Today our kids weren’t tough enough to do it. Their kids were tougher, they wanted the game more than us and they obviously were the better team.”
Greenville pitcher Ally Russell (25-6) settled down after the first, allowing only two hits the rest of the way. She also started a pair of Wave rallies and scored both runs following a one-out double in the third and a leadoff single in the fifth.
But that was all the scoring Kenton Ridge pitcher Courtney Lopez (25-2) allowed as she continually worked out of trouble. Lopez surrendered 13 hits but stranded 11 runners, including three in the bottom of the seventh when Greenville had the tying run at the plate.
“If you’d told me before the game we’d have 13 hits in a regional final, I’d be punching our ticket to Akron,” Newland said.
Lopez said her team’s six-run first changed the way she attacked the Wave lineup.
“It really helped us pitch different pitches, ones we wouldn’t normally do,” she said. “We had a big cushion, and I knew I had my team behind me the whole time. As long as they were up for it, I knew I could do it if they could.”
Elysa Mathews and Monika Foster each delivered two-run singles for the Cougars, while Mykee Holtz drove in one. Learic Kinser started everything with a shot to left on the first pitch of the game and finished 2-for-3.
Brionna Greer had three hits, including a double, for Greenville, while Erin Albright added a pair of singles.