AKRON -- Anguish in Akron.
That pretty much sums up the feelings of the John Glenn High softball team, which saw a thrilling and memorable ride to the state tournament halted abruptly when top-ranked Poland Seminary scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a Lady Muskie miscue to claim a hard-fought 5-4 victory in the OHSAA Division II State Tournament semifinals at Firestone Stadium on Thursday.
At one point in the game, John Glenn managed a 4-1 lead over its highly-touted foe and was locked in a 4-4 stalemate heading to the bottom of the seventh.
Poland Seminary sophomore third baseman Jenna Modic — who had staked her team to a 1-0 lead with a rocket home run back in the third inning — led off with a bullet off the right field fence for a double.
Junior Adriana Sikora then put down a perfect bunt toward third base, reaching safely with a base hit and advancing Modic to third.
After an intentional walk to senior Nicole White loaded the bases, JG senior pitcher Rachel Townsend got senior Jessica D’Apolito to hit a hard grounder right at senior shortstop Jenna Shingary, who fired a strike to junior catcher Syd Brown for the forceout on Modic.
The next batter, however — sophomore Kalie Benson — hit a chopper back to the mound, but the throw to the plate sailed high and allowed Sikora to score the game-winning run.
“We had the bases loaded and the pressure was on them,” Poland Seminary coach Reid Lamport said. “It was a tough game all the way, but they didn’t make the play they had to make and we took advantage of it.”
The heartbreaking loss ended with a fine 27-4 record including sectional, district and regional championships, a sixth straight Muskingum Valley League title and the school’s second trip ever to the state tournament.
“There’s only one team in each division that wins its last ballgame,” related veteran John Glenn coach Randy Larrick, “and sure, we’re disappointed, but still very excited about what we accomplished. I’m proud of the kids for the way they performed all season. We just didn’t make the plays we should have made.”
The Lady Muskies had been nearly-flawless in the field during their tournament run, but were guilty of five errors against Poland Seminary.
“We knew our defense was going to have to keep us in the ballgame,” Larrick acknowledged, “but once we got the lead, our defense let us down.”
John Glenn got away with two errors in the second inning when Townsend inducted two infield outs, but the Lady Bulldogs got on the scoreboard first thanks to Modic’s first-pitch home run to right-center in the bottom of the third inning.
Limited to just two baserunners in the first four frames by Seminary’s sophomore mound ace Erin Gabriel — a first inning walk to Shingary and a second inning single by senior first baseman Trish Klass — the Lady Muskies made things happen in the fifth frame.
A leadoff walk to junior catcher Syd Brown got it started, with sophomore Erin Shade taking over as a courtesy runner. After a wild pitch moved Shade to second, Klass collected her second hit of the day — an RBI single to center — to drive in Shade.
Townsend then reached on an error which allowed freshman Teresa Kuhns (running for Klass) to score, with Townsend racing all the way around to third on the play.
Sophomore Hannah Gregory then ran for Townsend and junior leftfielder Lyndsay Buchanan put down a nifty squeeze bunt single, with the third baseman unable to make a play as Gregory sprinted past her to score.
After two outs, Shingary delivered an RBI single to left to plate Lyndsay Buchanan and give the Lady Muskies a 4-1 advantage.
“Our kids came in with the right attitude and put the ball in play and made some things happen, especially in the fifth inning,” Larrick commented.
Poland Seminary was undaunted, however, and responded with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to even the score.
Senior Megan Hirschbeck reached on an error, with Meredith Testa inserted as a courtesy runner; Gabriel lined a single and then with one out, Modic was intentionally walked to load the bases.
An infielder grounder followed, but the throw to the plate was off the mark and both Testa and sophomore Maura Bobby (running for Gabriel) scampered home. White followed with an RBI groundout to drive in Modic and the game was tied, 4-4.
“The key was after they went up 4-1 we came right back,” said Poland Seminary’s Lamport. “That was huge for us because it gave our girls confidence and got the momentum back in our favor.”
A single by Benson; a sacrifice bunt and an “unintentional” intentional walk to Gabriel had the Lady Bulldogs threatening with runners on the corners in the sixth, but a groundout to junior third baseman Macey Brosie ended the threat, setting the stage for the fateful final frame.
Although she finished with a four-hitter that included nine strikeouts and two walks, the Lady Muskies made Gabriel (21-0) work on the mound with a total of 105 pitches.
“He (Coach Larrick) had them ready to go,” Seminary’s Lamport said of the Lady Muskies. “She (Gabriel) threw more change-ups today than she did all season, and that’s a credit to their hitters and also to her for being able to adjust.”
“They weren’t going after my riseball,” Gabriel said, “so I had to use the change-up. I wasn’t worried when we got down, because we’ve hit the ball well all season and I knew we’d come back.”
Modic was the game’s hitting star with a home run, double and single for the Lady Bulldogs, with Sikora adding two singles.
John Glenn’s Townsend (27-4) had no strikeouts and three walks in taking the loss.
“Rachel didn’t have a strikeout,” Larrick stated, “but she battled against what was probably as the most solid hitting team we’ve seen all season from one through nine.”
A good portion of the Lady Muskies’ lineup will return in 2011 as the only seniors lost will be Townsend, Shingary and Klass.
“Hopefully, our ‘young pups’ will learn from this,” said Larrick, “and if we’re fortunate to ever get back here again, we’ll be ready for the challenge.”
John Glenn’s four-run output was only the third time all season a team scored more than two runs against Poland Seminary.
In the other D-II semifinal game, Hebron Lakewood led 3-0 before Greenville scored four times in the top of the sixth inning only to have Lakewood tally twice in the bottom of the sixth to gain a 5-4 victory.
Poland Seminary (30-1) will play Hebron Lakewood (28-5) for the D-II championship Saturday at 10 a.m. in the first of four state title games at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
POLAND SEMINARY 5, JOHN GLENN 4
John Glenn 000 040 0 — 4 4 5
Poland Seminary 001 030 1 — 5 8 1
Rachel Townsend (LP 27-4, 0 Ks, 3 BB) and Syd Brown. Erin Gabriel (WP 21-0, 9 Ks, 2 BB) and Megan Hirschbeck.
RECORDS—John Glenn 27-4; Poland Seminary 30-1.
STAT LEADERS—For John Glenn, Trish Klass, 2 singles, RBI; Lyndsay Buchanan, single, RBI, run; Jenna Shingary, single, RBI; Erin Shade, run; Teresa Kuhns, run; Hannah Gregory, run. For Poland Seminary, Jenna Modic, home run, double, single, RBI, 2 runs; Adriana Sikora, 2 singles, run; Nicole White, single, RBI, Gabriel, single; Kalie Benson, single; Meredith Testa, run; Maura Bobby, run.