By Brad Morris
ASHVILLE — Morgan Cantrell knew the Teays Valley Vikings were facing a potential turning point on Friday in a Mid-State League Buckeye Division game.
A two-run homer over the center field fence by junior Gabby McConnell breathed some life in the Circleville Tigers, who were one out away from heading to the fifth inning trailing by just a 4-2 score and with the top of their lineup coming up.
The Vikings responded with six consecutive hits and scored five times to seize momentum for good in a 12-2 run-rule win over the visiting Tigers in five innings.
“Our coaches always talk to us about answering back and we needed to get to work,” Cantrell said. “Once we got the first hit in that sequence, then each person after that knew they had a job to do, and they did it.”
Michelle Brumfield singled to center and Cantrell followed by doubling off the right center field fence to drive her in.
“I had a pretty good idea what to expect after facing Gabby a couple of times before that,” Cantrell said. “I figured I would get something in the zone or outside and I was able to take the pitch and hit it to the opposite field.”
Micah Mann followed with a single to center that drove in Cantrell and Reagan Mengerink doubled to center to chase home Mann. Mengerink came around to score on a single to right off the bat of Alyssa Brown, who took second on the throw to home plate and scored on a single to center courtesy of Aimee DeWeese.
“Our girls did a nice job of recognizing the situation and knowing that we were in a battle against Circleville, like we normally are when we play them since it’s a rivalry game and both teams know each other pretty well,” Teays Valley coach Derrick Hastler said. “When one or two girls start hitting, it seems to be contagious with this group and everyone gets involved from top-to-bottom of our lineup, and that’s what happened in the fourth.”
The Vikings completed the run-rule win an inning later. Mann singled to center to drive in both Cantrell and Sydney Manring and Mengerink followed with a single to right to bring around Mann for the final run of the game.
Teays Valley used its aggressive approach on the base pads to take a 3-0 lead in the second.
DeWeese doubled to left, advanced to third on a single to right off the bat of Isabel Sayre and scored on a passed ball.
Alyvia Lawrentz walked and a delayed double steal allowed her to take second and for Sayre to swipe home.
Lawrentz came around to score the third run of the inning when Brumfield reached on an error.
“We wanted to get going early, push the pace of play and try to take advantage of our athleticism,” Hastler said.
Teays Valley tacked on an insurance run in the third when Mengerink smacked a 1-0 offering over the center field fence.
Circleville scored both of its runs in the top of the fourth when Ella Michael doubled to right center and scored when McConnell hit a 2-1 pitch over the center field fence.
Mengerink went 3-for-4 and fell a triple short of the cycle. The Teays Valley senior catcher scored twice and drove in three runs.
Mann was 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored, and Cantrell also posted a 3-for-4 evening, doubling twice, driving in a run and scoring twice. DeWeese accounted for a 2-for-3 performance, drove in a run and scored.
“We were excited for this game, because we know Circleville has a good team and that Gabby McConnell is a good pitcher for them,” Cantrell said. “We faced a couple of slower pitchers earlier in the week, so we were excited to face a pitcher who throws harder and is similar to what we normally face.”
Michael went 2-for-3 with a double and run scored to pace the Tigers (7-4, 2-2).
Manring allowed six hits, a pair of earned runs and struck out five to earn the win.
“Other than the pitch to Gabby, Sydney did a nice job of minimizing damage when Circleville got a runner or two on base and stranded them there,” Hastler said. “Our defense was also very solid behind Sydney, starting with Alyvia Lawrentz making a diving grab in left field to rob a hit to begin the game.”
The defending league champion Vikings (13-2, 6-0) now hold at least a two-game lead in the loss column over every other team with one game to go in first round play.
“Circleville is one of the better teams in our league, so we knew this was an opportunity to add to our lead and put a little distance between ourselves and everyone else,” Cantrell said. “We were pretty focused on what we needed to do coming into the game and we got the job done.”
Both teams hit the road on Saturday for non-league play. Teays Valley travels to Marysville for games against the district power Monarchs and Kenton Ridge. Circleville makes the trip down U.S. 35 to Gallia Academy for a pair of games against the Blue Angels.
Teays Valley 12, Circleville 2
Circleville 000 20— 2 6 4
Teays Valley 031 53—12 15 0
McConnell, Cowdery (5) and Hayes; Manring and Mengerink. HR — CV — McConnell (fourth, one on); TV — Mengerink (third, solo).