It was a game of missed opportunities for head coach Tom Schaper and his Hilltop Lady Cadets. Starting in the 1st inning with bases loaded and one out, to the last inning when they had the tying runs on base, Hilltop was just unable to come up with the big hit at those moments as their season came to an end with a 6-4 loss to the Carey Blue Devils in the Division IV softball Regional Semifinal in Findlay on Wednesday, May 24th. Hilltop went to work right away against Carey pitcher Dani Berardinelli-Clark, loading the bases with one out and freshman Maddie Schaper coming to the plate. Schaper drew a walk, forcing in a run, and the Lady Cadets had an early 1-0 lead. With the bases still loaded, Berardinelli-Clark was able to force the Lady Cadets into a double play to end the inning and keep the score at 1-0. Hailey Niederkohr reached base for Carey, members of the Northern 10 Athletic Conference, in the bottom of the 1st. Berardinelli-Clark then smacked a double, scoring Niederkohr, and the game was tied 1-1.
Hannnah Lonsway followed that with a double of her own driving in Berardinelli-Clark and giving Carey their first lead of the game 2-1. Hilltop pitcher Aubrey Wyse would get a deep flyout to center to end the inning with the Lady Blue Devils in front 2-1. Hilltop generated some more offense in the top of the 2nd with a RBI bunt single by Abby Funkhouser to tie the game. Carey’s defense rose up again, turning another double play to end the Hilltop threat and the score was now 2-2 heading to the bottom of the 2nd. Carey went back in front 3-2 when S. Ferguson was thrown out attempting to steal, but that allowed C. Carter to score from third base to give the Blue Devils the lead back. Hilltop was retired in order in the top of the 3rd, but it was Carey who did the damage in their half of the inning. After Niederkohr again reached base, Berardinelli-Clark singled scoring Niederkohr for the second time in the game and Carey now led 4-2.
Following a Felicite Smith single, Lonsway connected on her second double of the afternoon, driving in two runs, and Carey had extended their lead to 6-2 by the conclusion of the 3rd. The 4th inning was scoreless for both teams but Hilltop was about to make things very interesting in the next inning. In the top of the 5th, Becca Miller had a RBI double and later scored from third on a wild pitch and the Carey lead was trimmed to 6-4 moving to the bottom of the 5th. Carey had an opportunity to get those runs back as they put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Wyse pitched her way out of trouble for the Lady Cadets and it remained 6-4. Hilltop was then again retired 1-2-3 in the top of the 6th and once again in the bottom of the inning Carey was able to get two runners on base but they were stranded so it was still 6-4 in favor of the Lady Blue Devils going to the 7th inning.
Abby Schaper started Hilltop’s final at bat with a walk. After Funkhouser struck out and Wyse was retired, the Cadets were down to their final out. Haley Stephens dropped a double down the line and Hilltop now had the tying runs in scoring position with two outs and Miller coming to the plate. Berardinelli-Clark was able to get Miller to hit a popup that was caught by Felicite Smith to end the game and send Carey (17-5) to the Regional Finals for the second straight year. The Lady Cadets were held to just four hits with Becca Miller leading the way by going 2-4 with a double and a RBI. Haley Stephens and Ariana Brown each had a double also for Hilltop. Junior Aubrey Wyse pitched six innings, giving up ten hits, six runs, with two walks and three strikeouts. Hilltop finishes an outstanding season with a record of 21-10.
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