By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
ASHLAND — Elmwood coach Matt Hoiles had the path to the Division III state softball championship mapped out, with his team being part of the plan.
But if Hoiles turns out to be right, another team wearing blue will get to wear the crown.
Archbold jumped out to a first-inning lead, contained Elmwood’s offense with its pitching and defense and came away with a 5-2 victory in Saturday’s Division III regional championship game Saturday at Brookside Park.
The Blue Streaks, after tying the school record for wins in a season with its 26th against four defeats, advances to Friday’s state semifinals at Akron’s Firestone Stadium. And, according to Hoiles, Archbold should be in good shape in its next two games.
“I said all along that whoever wins this regional, I really feel is going to win state,” said Hoiles, whose club finished at 20-10. “When it came down to us and Archbold in the final here — I really feel that Archbold’s got the team to take it all the way, and I thought we did, too.”
Hoiles felt the Blue Streaks simply made a few more positive things happen than his club.
“They put the bat on the ball — we knew they were going to. They made some plays,” Hoiles said. “We put the bat on the ball. They made less mistakes than we did.”
Four fielding errors are abnormal for the Royals, though only one played directly into an Archbold run. But a few executional items here and there added up to the Blue Streaks gaining their first state bid since 2004.
“It’s a great feeling,” Blue Streaks coach Joe Frank said. “These girls have worked extremely hard. They’re a very deserving group. They’ve worked and done everything we’ve asked them to do. They come in and work extra — take extra swings, stay after practice and take extra ground balls. For those types of things, among other things, they’re being rewarded.”
A tone seemed to be set in the first inning.
Brittany George led off the game for the Royals with a double and Morgan Arnold followed with a walk . But a fly ball to left, a foul pop to the catcher and a called third strike later, the Blue Streaks were out of the inning.
Junior third baseman Alyssa Schaub immediately got Archbold on the board in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff homer to left field.
“I was excited and I wanted to get a good hit to start of the game and it just happened to go over the fence,” Schaub said.
Schaub made one of several nice defensive plays by the Blue Streaks in the second inning as she turned her back to the infield and ran down the left field line to make an over-the-shoulder catch of Lyndsey Clark’s foul pop.
“I just turned and tried not to trip over third base and got to it,”
Schaub was hit by a pitch to start the third inning and scored on winning pitcher Sarah Wyse’s double, putting Archbold up 2-0.
A double steal and a run-scoring single by Morgan Cody pushed the Blue Streaks’ advantage to 4-0 in the fifth. Elmwood closed to 4-2 in a four-hit sixth inning that included RBI singles by losing pitcher Marissa Lee and Amanda Peters before Archbold added a run in the sixth on Jenna Nofziger’s run-scoring single.
Hoiles was proud that his club let Archbold know it was still in a game in the late going.
“They girls fought and at know time did they ever feel they were out (of the game),” he said.
Wyse (19-4) used her change-up effectively while striking out five and walking three as her team played errorlessly in the field. Lee (19-6) struck out eight while walking none but hitting three batters.
Elmwood 000 002 0 — 2 10 4
Archbold 101 021 x — 5 9 0
WP — Sa. Wyse (19-5). LP — Lee (19-6). top hitters: (E) B. George 2B; Striff 2-1B; Lee 1B, RBI; Peters 1B, RBI. (A) Schaub HR; Sa. Wyse 2-1B, 2B, RBI; Cody 1B, RBI; Graber 2-1B; Nofziger 1B, RBI.
records: Elmwood 20-10; Archbold 26-4.