WATERFORD, Ohio — Throw the regular season out the window, this is tournament time.
The sixth-seeded Southern softball team lost twice to third-seeded Waterford in Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division play this season, but in Thursday’s Division IV sectional final in Washington County, the Lady Tornadoes took their revenge.
Southern (11-11) blasted three home runs and held Waterford (15-8) to just five hits, as the Purple and Gold punched their ticket to the district tournament, with a 6-0 win.
The Lady Tornadoes stranded a baserunner on second in the second inning, and then left one on third in the third. The Lady Wildcats left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third inning and never reached third base again.
The game-winning run was scored with one out in the top of the fourth inning, as SHS junior catcher Paige VanMeter launched a solo home run. With two outs in the fourth, Katie Barton singled home Lauren Lavender, giving the guests a 2-0 advantage.
Southern’s lead grew to 4-0 with two outs in the top of the fifth, as VanMeter hit a her second homer, this time of the two-run variety.
After a scoreless sixth frame, SHS scored the final two runs of the win with two outs in the top of the seventh, when Sydney Cleland connected for a two-run home run.
Sydney Cleland was the winning pitcher in a complete game for SHS, striking out one, walking two and allowing five hits.
“Paige (VanMeter) and Sydney (Cleland) did an absolutely phenomenal job calling and pitching the game tonight,” SHS head coach Alan Crisp said. “The first time we faced Waterford, they had 17 hits. The second time we faced them, they had 15. They only had five tonight.”
Smitley struck out one and walked one in a complete game loss for Waterford, allowing six runs and 10 hits.
The Lady Tornadoes had a trio of players go 2-for-3 in the win. VanMeter recorded two home runs, two runs scored and three runs batted in, Sierra Cleland recorded a double and a single, while Barton singled twice and drove in one run.
Sydney Cleland helped her own cause with a home run, one run scored and two RBIs. Lavender and Jaiden Roberts both doubled once and scored once in the win, while Josie Cundiff contributed a single and a run scored.
Huffman led the hosts with three singles, while Young doubled once and Ohse singled once.
The Lady Tornadoes committed both of the game’s errors. SHS left five runners on base, three fewer than Waterford.
In the regular season, Waterford defeated Southern by a 10-7 count on April 18, in Racine, and then the Lady Wildcats topped SHS by a 10-3 final on May 2, at WHS.
“From our record, I thought a No. 6 seed was the best we could get and of the top teams, I wanted Waterford,” Crisp said. “I thought we matched up well with them. In the two games that we got beat, we were right there, but one inning in each game cost us.”
Southern also knocked Waterford out of the 2015 sectional tournament. The Lady Wildcats have now missed the district tournament in three straight postseasons.
In the last four seasons, this is Southern’s third trip the the Division IV district tournament at Minford High School, with last year as the lone exception.
“Last year was a big disappointment, but Trimble just had our number all season,” Crisp said. “We wanted to get back to Minford this year, that was the goal from day one and the kids worked at it. It’s a lot different team than the one I’ve had the last four years. It took me a while to get adjusted to how to coach them, but once we all got together, we played pretty well down the stretch.”
The Purple and Gold will face second-seeded Leesburg Fairfield, on Thursday at Minford. The Lady Lions defeated Western by a 15-0 final on Thursday.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.