By Brad Morris
ASHVILLE — It doesn’t take long to figure out the softball pedigree that Teays Valley has earned over the years, starting with the four cutouts of Ohio on the outfield fence that symbolize and honor two state tournament teams, one state runner-up squad and a state championship team.
With that type of tradition, Teays Valley coach Derrick Hastler entered this week in an unusual situation.
“We normally have teams with a lot of tournament experience, but due to not having last season because of the (COVID-19) pandemic we started this week with only two players with tournament experience,” Hastler revealed. “Our younger kids would have got some experience last year and our seven seniors would have taught them about the attitude and mentality that you have to play with in the tournament, but they didn’t get that opportunity, obviously.
“We talked with the kids about staying with what has made them successful, along with the type of focus you have to play with.”
The Vikings proved that they received the message and put it into action, outscoring their first two tournament foes by a combined 39-0, including a 16-0 drubbing of visiting Westerville North on Wednesday in a Division I Central District sectional final.
“Our girls said that they could feel there was a different atmosphere this week, but they did a good job of being locked in and focused in both of our games,” Hastler said.
The ninth-seeded Vikings (17-7) advance to a district semifinal on Monday at seventh-seeded Upper Arlington (22-4). Normally district semifinal games would be played at a neutral site, but due to the pandemic the district decided to have the higher seed host through the district final.
Teays Valley did what it was supposed to do on Monday in a 23-0 demolition of Franklin Heights, seeded 42nd out of 46 teams in the district. What it did on Wednesday against No. 17 seeded Westerville North (13-11) was perhaps a little unexpected.
The Vikings sent 15 batters to the plate in the first inning, assembled seven hits and took advantage of three errors and a pair of walks to put a 10-spot on the scoreboard.
“We got off to a nice start the other night against Franklin Heights and maintained our focus, but obviously (Wednesday) was the next round of the tournament and we were playing an opponent that was a lot higher seeded,” Hastler said. “Our girls did a nice job of staying within themselves, hitting the ball hard and being laser focused from the first pitch.”
Emma Helwagen led off the bottom of the first with a single to left and advanced to second an out later when Morgan Cantrell reached on an error.
Following a walk to Kyra Darnell to load the bases, Faith Thompson singled to right to knock in Helwagen. An error on the right fielder also allowed Cantrell and Darnell to score and Thompson to advance to second on the play.
Reagan Mengerink then singled to right to drive in Thompson and put the Vikings ahead 4-0.
Following a single to left by Kennedy Cauger and a walk to Kadance Fraley, Alexis Brown singled to left to knock in Mengerink and Cauger to make it 6-0.
After Helwagen reached on a bunt single to load the bags, Alyssa Brown reached on an error in right that allowed three runs to score and give the Vikings a 9-0 lead.
Brown then stole third and scored on a single to right off the bat of Darnell.
The Vikings went on to score twice in the third and four more times in the fourth to put the finishing touches on their run-rule win over the Warriors.
Helwagen led a 16-hit outburst for the Vikings by going 4-for-4 with four runs scored. Thompson went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored, Alyssa Brown accounted for a 2-for-4 performance with three RBIs and three runs scored, Alexis Brown turned in a 2-for-3 evening with two RBIs and two runs scored and Cantrell chipped in a 2-for-4 outing with an RBI and two runs scored.
Madison Cline earned the win for the Vikings by checking the Warriors to four hits over four innings. She struck out a pair of batters.
“Madison has the most experience for us and she went out there, executed her pitches and threw a nice game,” Hastler said.
The Vikings now turn their attention to a district semifinal clash with the Golden Bears, who defeated Olentangy Orange 12-2 in a six-inning sectional final.
“It’s a different level of the tournament against a quality team, but the girls just need to continue and stay within themselves and have fun out there,” Hastler said.
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