Mechanicsburg beats Minster, earns first state berth in softball

Indians never trail after hitting grand slam in first

Coach Abbey DeLong repeated it a number of times as she hugged her Mechanicsburg softball players and the fans who had walked onto the field take photos of the team celebrating an 8-4 victory over Minster.

» PHOTOS: Mechanicsburg vs. Minster

“They did it,” DeLong said. “They did it.”

Indeed, the Indians did it, winning a Division IV regional championship Saturday to advance to the state tournament for the first time. A grand slam by freshman Daytayviah Rodgers in the first inning gave fourth-ranked Mechanicsburg (20-3) a comfortable cushion throughout the day, and it added insurance runs in the later innings, denying top-ranked Minster (17-8) its second state berth and first since 2014.

» REGIONAL TRACK: Springfield senior headed to state in three events

Rodgers said she has six home runs this season, and this was her first grand slam. It came with two outs.

"I was just trying to relax," she said. "I took a deep breath. As soon as I saw the ball coming, I was like, 'OK, it's my time,' and I just smacked it for the team. I was doing it for the team."

Mechanicsburg, a team with no seniors, will play in the state semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Akron Firestone Stadium. The opponent will be No. 7 Hillsdale, which beat No. 8 Monroeville 5-0. Peebles will play Antwerp at 3 p.m. Friday in the first Division IV state semifinal.

Mechanicsburg adds to the strong softball tradition in Champaign County. West Liberty-Salem, which lost 4-2 to West Jefferson on Saturday in a Division III regional final, has played in the final four three times. Triad has made six trips to state and won it all in 1992. Urbana made it to the semifinals in 2006.

"It's amazing, honestly," Rodgers said. "Heaven on earth. I can't believe we've made it this far."

» EARLIER COVERAGE: Mechanicsburg, WLS seek state berths

The Indians rode their 4-0 lead until the fourth when Minster's Jenna Poeppleman and Laney Hemmelgarn hit solo home runs. Hannah DeLong gave Mechanicsburg a 5-2 lead with an RBI single in the fifth. The Indians extended their lead to 8-2 in the seventh. DeLong drove in a run with a double. Kasey Schipfer and Francys King also had RBIs.

Rodgers closed out the game in relief by striking out the final batter after Minster rallied for two runs in the seventh.

"We just ran out of innings today," Minster coach Robb Hemmelgarn said. "We got things going too late. That happens. There's not a clock in softball. We don't give up a grand slam in the first, and it's a 4-4 game, but you can't look at it that way. We did what we had to do and fought to the end."

About the Author