By SCOTT COTTOS
OAK HARBOR — Coach Jason Ward thought his Old Fort team would turn in a quality performance in its Division IV district semifinal against New Riegel on Wednesday.
And his state-ranked Stockaders didn’t let him down in the least, as they banged out 12 hits, got a solid pitching showing from Sarah Hossler and played error-free defense in a 7-4 victory over their rival from the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division.
Old Fort, ranked ninth in the final Division IV state coaches poll, improved to 19-3 and advanced to Saturday’s district championship game against top-ranked Gibsonburg (23-0). The Stockaders fell 10-4 to the Golden Bears during the regular season.
“The girls did pretty much what I expected,” Ward said. “I expected them to come out early and hit the ball and play ball like they know how, like they’ve been playing all season.”
Peyton Miller had a triple among her three hits for Old Fort, while Hanna Bilger doubled, singled and drove in a run. Hossler recorded two hits and an RBI.
New Riegel (16-9) garnered nine hits, but three of them came in the seventh inning after it had already fallen behind 7-3. The Blue Jackets also saw two of their four errors contribute to runs for the Stockaders.
In addition, Old Fort jumped on top 2-0 in the top of the third when losing pitcher Jacquelyn Lininger hit Whitney Bilger with a pitch with the bases loaded and subsequently walked Hanna Bilger.
“In a close game, we hit a batter with the bases loaded and walked the next one,” New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger said. “You’re not going to beat a good team by giving them runs. We made a few errors, too.
“Old Fort’s a great team. Their pitcher’s improved a lot, I think, since we played them earlier, and they’ve got hitters throughout their lineup. They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes. The (Alli) Adelsperger girl’s a great shortstop. They’re just a fundamentally sound, well-coached team.”
The Blue Jackets, who split a pair of games with the Stockaders during the regular season, got one of the runs back in the bottom of the third when Emily Peters tripled home Elyssa Theis.
But consecutive singles by Mackie Ward, Miller, Adelsperger, Hossler, Magers and Whitney Bilger and a misplay in the field yielded four Old Fort runs in the fourth before an out was made.
Ward, Miller and Magers hit shots up the middle. Hossler and Bilger saw bloopers fall in and Adelsperger reached on an infield single off the glove of relief pitcher Elyssa Theis.
“It was almost like there was nothing we could do about it,” Lininger said. “I don’t know if they weren’t giving us inside pitches or what, but we felt we had to get it out over the plate a little more and they would just hit it up the middle. It’s not even like we were close to it, and it’s not like we could be close to it. They were just good hits.”
Said Jason Ward: “The girls did a real good job. One leads off and then they follow one another. They just build and build off one another.”
New Riegel scored in the fifth when Brianna Gillig’s bases-loaded groundout sent a runner home. Old Fort answered in the seventh when catcher Julia Reinhart’s attempt to pick Miller off third went over the head of Lindsay Bouillon.
Peters doubled in a run and Kristin Coleman knocked in another with a bloop single in the seventh, but the Jackets couldn’t come all the way back.
Bouillon and Theis finished with two hits apiece for the Blue Jackets.
The Stockaders now get another shot at top-ranked Gibsonburg.
“Gibsonburg is a good club. We played them during the season and we played them well,” said Ward, whose club trailed just 6-4 through six innings before the Golden Bears hit a pair of seventh-inning home runs. “They’re a good hitting team. But I think our defense is ready.”
Old Fort 002 400 1 — 7 12 0
New Riegel 001 010 2 — 4 9 4
WP — Hossler. LP — Lininger. TOP HITTERS: (OF) Miller 2-1B, 3B; Adelsperger 2-1B; Hossler 2-1B, RBI; Magers 1B, RBI; W. Bilger 1B, 2-RBI; H. Bilger 2B, 1B, RBI. (NR) Bouillon 2-1B; Peters 2B, 3B, 2-RBI; Gillig 1B, RBI; Coleman 1B, RBI; E. Theis 2-1B.
RECORDS: Old Fort 19-3, New Riegel 16-9.