Bucks claim district title

Published 3:17 pm Monday, June 5, 2006

By By TOM NYHUIS / Niles Daily Star
BRIDGMAN - Saturday's opening semi-final game at the Division III District Softball Tournament at Bridgman saw the top two teams of the Lakeland Conference square off against each other.
At steak for Brandywine, ranked seventh in the latest state poll, was an opportunity to get back to the championship game to defend their long string of district titles.
For Buchanan, after several years of disappointment, the Lady Bucks were just looking for a win and an opportunity to have chance at the championship title.
Buchanan's three runs in the top half of the sixth broke a 0-0 deadlock and proved to be enough to get the job done.
The Lady Buck's defense and the pitching of Ashley Pointer held the Bobcats scoreless in the final two innings to take the big 3-0 win to advance to the championship game later Saturday afternoon against Bridgman.
The Bees defeated River Valley in the second game of the day 10-0 in five innings to punch their ticket to the title game.
"I know my kids can play with anybody," Buchanan coach Mike Welsh said after the win over Brandywine. "We have good athletes here too and (Brandywine) was a heck of a ball club. I just can't say enough about our kids. And Ashley just pitched one heck of a ball game. She was hitting spots and corners and when you get an umpire that gives us our corners we are going to be tough to beat. This was just a great team effort."
Buchanan captured the district crown with a 14-2 win over Bridgman. The win gave the Lady Bucks and coach Mike Welsh the district championship, their first district title in nine years, with the last coming in 1997.
"Bridgman played us tough in our first game with them, (a 1-0 win for the Bucks). Someone has an opportunity and it's going to be a heck of a game. I don't care who we play we just have to play with the same intensity," Welsh said.
Not only did the Lady Bucks break the Bobcat string of consecutive conference victories at 64 earlier in the season, they also broke the Bobcat's district win streak at seven on Saturday.
"Its been a nice run," Brandywine coach Jim Myers said of the streak. "We hope to start it again next year. Buchanan deserves it, they played well and they have been beaten by us quite a few years in a row and I hope Mike (Welsh) does well and carries it on."
With the bases full of Lady Bucks, a single with one out by freshman Jayme O'Bryant pushed two runners around to score. The hit proved to be the winning stroke to break up Bobcat pitcher Kelli Zache's stellar performance.
Zache was rolling along and had struck out eight Buchanan batters and had only given up one hit, a bunt single by Emily Ross in the fourth.
In the sixth, it was Zache's one and only walk of the game. It proved to be a costly pass. Taylor Krumrie opened the sixth with the base on balls. Holly Lucas executed at her trip to the plate with a sacrifice that moved Krumrie over to second. A throwing error by Bobcat shortstop Angela Newman let Ross reach first as Krumrie remained at second. Jill Woodrick then singled to load the bags for O'Bryant.
Woodrick moved to third on the hit and Maggie Ernsberger's sacrifice grounder to second allowed Woodrick to score the third and final run for the Lady Bucks.
"Whenever you walk a lead-off batter you are sitting up a potential to score a run," Myers said. "In this game, when lead-off batters get on good things happen, so that was the big play for us. They had a couple of plays that got runners on and their number three hitter (O'Bryant) got the big hit. That's what you expect out of your number three hitter. It was a pretty good pitch outside, she just laid on it and drove a nice line drive. They got the big hit, we could never get a hit when we had somebody on base."
Pointer recorded her 21st win of the season giving up just three hits, striking out four and walking none. Zache finished with 10 strike outs, one walk and allowed only three hits. The Bobcat defense had two errors in the game.
"We didn't hit the ball well," Meyers said following the loss. "We knew what she was going to throw and we still couldn't hit her. So give credit to her (Ashley Pointer) I didn't think our hitter were very aggressive today. We never hit the ball to the left side, maybe twice. We practiced a lot this week at pulling the ball over there. We just didn't hit the ball the way we should have today."
In the championship game, it was all Lady Bucks as they jumped out quick on the Bees. Buchanan scored three runs in the first, one in the second and tagged on four in the third for an 8-0 lead.
"We got those early runs and I think they got down early. I felt pretty good about that because we haven't been giving up very many runs at all," Welsh said.
Buchanan was then able to score another run in the fourth and two in the fifth after Bridgman scored two in the fourth, giving the Lady Bucks an 11-2 lead.
Three runs in the sixth and holding Bridgman scoreless gave them the 14-2 win in six innings and the district title. Again, it was Pointer picking up the win giving up four hits, striking out six and walking one. Miranda Strefling took the loss for the Bees giving up 10 hits, walking four and striking out five. Nine Bridgman errors led to 11 unearned runs.
Leading the Lady Bucks at the plate were seniors Woodrick and Hayley Burks, each with a pair of singles, with Woodrick collecting an RBI. O'Bryant continued to have a good day at the plate picking up four RBIs on two hits - a double and a single. Ernsberger also had a double in the championship game.
Buchanan will now face Watervliet at 10 a.m next Saturday at the Division III Gobles Regional. In an earlier meeting this season, the Lady Panthers swept the Lady Bucks by the score of 3-2 in both games. Watervliet and Buchanan are both named as Honorable Mention teams in the final Division III state poll of the season.
"We just need to keep doing what we have been doing and keep loose. We're not going to make this game any bigger than any other game that we have played all year, just like we have been doing down the stretch," Welsh said