By JAMIE BAKER
New Riegel is on a roll.
New Riegel jumped out to an early lead and senior pitcher Taylor Mathias took over from there as the Blue Jackets rolled up their 16th straight win by blanking Wayne Trace 3-0 in the Division IV regional finals at Lady Trojan Field Saturday afternoon.
The win puts New Riegel in the Division IV state tournament for the first time since 1996. The Blue Jackets (24-6) will take on either Strasburg-Franklin or Portsmouth Clay in the state semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
Timely hitting, great pitching and solid defense, the Blue Jackets have had the bases covered on all of those aspects of the game throughout the second half of the season.
“They just make play after play defensively,” said New Riegel coach Jamie Lininger. “We’re just so solid defensively. We can put pressure on them offensively and Taylor looks so sharp on the mound.
“It’s a great feeling. The kids deserve this so much. It’s been their ultimate goal to get to state the last two years. Every single one of these girls contributed in some away.”
The Blue Jackets jumped on Wayne Trace early, scoring solo runs in the first and second innings.
Speedy shortstop Jami Wagner legged out an infield single to third to start the bottom of the first. She stole second and went to third on an error when there was no one there to cover the throw to second.
Shana Scherger grounded to third but Wayne Trace first baseman Joellen Fickel dropped the ball allowing Wagner to score.
The Raiders failed to field the ball three times on throws to second on attempted steals.
“We really weren’t planning on running on them too much,” Lininger said. “We were going to go to the short game and we see where it would take us. That was big, that run in the first inning.”
In the second inning, Paige Noftz drew a one-out walk. She went to second on a wild pitch and came around to score on Sarah Reinhart’s stand-up double to the fence in center.
“They have speed and they are extremely quick,” said Wayne Trace coach Nikki Staten. “My catcher is a sophomore, but she has a great arm and she was having trouble making plays on them.
“You have to give them props for getting the ball in play and running everything out.”
The Blue Jackets didn’t have to worry about speed for their final run. That’s because Paula Kelbley crushed a home run to straightaway centerfield on a 1-2 pitch to lead off the fourth against Wayne Trace starter Marcie McDougle to make it 3-0.
McDougle pitched well allowing three runs, two earned, on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts in six innings.
But on this day it was Mathias who was queen of the pitcher’s circle. She raised her record to 18-3 as she yielded four hits with four strikeouts.
The only inning she ran into trouble was in the fourth. McDougle singled to right to open the inning and went to second when Ashley King served a single into left field.
New Riegel catcher made a nice play on a popped up bunt try by Andrea Padilla for the first out, Fickel fouled out and Sarah Feasby grounded to shortstop to end the threat.
Mathias slammed the door on the Raiders the rest of the way, retiring all nine batters over the final three innings.
“It was definitely a little discouraging. I think after that inning the girls were down on themselves and never really recovered from it,” Staten said. “It was just one of those games where we weren’t on our ‘A’ game and they were.”
For New Riegel, Saturday’s win was just the latest in a long list of big games they’ve won this month.
“This is why we beefed up our schedule a couple of years ago, so we would be comfortable playing in a game like this,” Lininger said.
“We played teams like this all year, probably some that were even better. We were ready for this team, but I’m not sure they were ready for us.”
Wayne Trace 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
New Riegel 110 100 x — 3 4 0
WP — Mathias (18-3). LP — McDougle. top hitters: (NR) Kelbley HR, 1B, RBI; Reinhart 2B, RBI; Wagner 1B. (WT) McDougle 2-1B; King 1B; Feasby 1B.
records: New Riegel 23-6, Wayne Trace 22-6.