The sixth inning was not friendly to Walsh Jesuit in a Division II state semifinal at Firestone Stadium on Friday, and the Warriors lost 4-1 to Newark Licking Valley.
The Warriors (26-6) trailed 2-1 heading into the top of the sixth and had runners on first and third with no outs after Taylor Stimson and Riley Ries led off with singles.
After a popout, Cori Anter grounded out to first base, putting Ries at second base with two outs.
Senior third basemen Lauren Cianciolo, who had reached base in her first two at-bats, worked a full count and fouled a pitch off before hitting a hard line drive directly at the center fielder for the third out of the inning.
“We got the ground ball to move Riley over,” Walsh coach Bill Davis said. “Then with two outs we get the hit we needed but hey, that’s baseball. It was right at somebody. We had other opportunities, though, I tip my hat to them.”
Deep counts and loud outs were the name of the game for the Warriors.
Licking Valley (22-7) starting pitcher Shelby McCombs was challenged by the Walsh hitters, throwing 20-plus pitches in each of the first three innings.
The Warriors also hit the ball hard often, but only came up with five hits and one run to show for it.
In the fourth inning, Anter roped a line drive caught by the first basemen and Sophia Simone hit a hard line drive back at the pitcher with a runner on that was caught to end the inning.
“We just talk about having good at-bats more than anything else,” Davis said. “You’ll see in other games we’ll start like that and as the game progresses we start scoring runs. That was no slouch pitcher out there, she was real tough.”
After leaving two runners stranded in scoring position in the top of the sixth, Licking Valley leadoff hitter Kori Caughenbaugh drew a seven-pitch walk to lead off the inning.
The next two batters attempted to move the runner over with a sacrifice bunt, looking for just one insurance run, but both failed.
McCombs, however, hitting in the leadoff spot, would get herself more than one insurance run as she took an 0-2 riseball and hit it over the center-field fence to give Licking Valley a 4-1 lead.
The Panthers’ first two runs came in the first and second innings. In each inning, the leadoff runner reached third before scoring on a high riseballs that sailed over the catcher’s head.
Walsh sophomore starting pitcher Taylor Rahach settled down after the two early mistakes and kept the Warriors in the game until McCombs’ home run in the sixth inning.
“The difference between a good pitcher and a bad pitcher is maturity,” Davis said. “To give up a couple runs early then settle down, not hang her head, get a big hit for us and then come back and give us an opportunity to win the game. That’s what good pitchers do.”
The Warriors’ only run came in the third inning when Rahach led off the inning with a single, was moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Lilli Piper and scored on a Stimson single up the middle.
Rahach gave up four runs on four hits in six innings. She struck out eight, walked one and hit a batter, falling to 19-6 with the loss.
Stimson led Walsh at the plate with two singles and an RBI.
McCombs improved to 19-6 with the win and struck out seven in her seven innings.
Licking Valley will play Springfield Kenton Ridge in the state final today at 7 p.m.
Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps.