With Kenton Ridge struggling to make any kind of solid contact against Granville All-Ohio pitcher Abby Barker, Brittany Harting finally came up with a huge swing in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The ball carried all the way to the fence in right center for a one-out triple and eventually carried the Cougars into the state championship game when Courtney Lopez followed with an RBI single for the only run in a 1-0 victory Friday night in the Division II state semifinals at Firestone Stadium.
Kenton Ridge (31-2) plays for the first state championship in program history tonight at 7 against Newark Licking Valley.
“It was definitely a big hit for me,” Harting said of the triple, her team-leading eighth of the season. “I haven’t been hitting lately. It was nice to come through when my team needed me the most.”
After driving in Harting with the game-winning run, Lopez retired the Blue Aces (25-7) in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal a complete-game three-hit gem.
“It’s amazing,” Lopez said. “I can’t believe it’s really happening.”
Two of the hits Lopez allowed came to lead off the fourth, but Lopez got Barker to pop up to first and then, after a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, third baseman Sarah Albaugh nailed Sarah Imhoff at the plate for the second out.
“It was just a little base-running error,” Blue Aces coach Rae Stuart said. “A small mistake, but costly.”
Following the play at the plate, Grace Imhoff drew some gasps with a deep fly to left, but Elysa Mathews tracked it down to end Granville’s only threat.
“It was definitely a pressure game, which was a little more difficult to pitch in,” Lopez said. “We stuck with it and won it with our defense.”
The Kenton Ridge fielders recorded 19 of the 21 outs as Lopez finished with just two strikeouts and no walks to send the Cougars to their 20th win in a row.
Barker fanned 11 and walked two for Granville, which was making its first state tournament appearance in school history.
“It definitely wasn’t our night offensively,” Kenton Ridge coach Sarah Ivory said. “We only had three hits, but we produced when we needed it there in the sixth.”
Kenton Ridge is making its fourth appearance in the championship game. The Cougars finished runner up in 1999, 2002 and 2003.
They will face a Newark Licking Valley team that beat Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 4-1 in the other semifinal. The Panthers are making their third state appearance in school history, and each of the previous two ended with titles (2002 and 2004).