Poland loses in final, 1-0
The Bulldogs' three errors in the 11th inning gave Lima Bath the only run.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
ASHLAND -- Poland High softball coach Reid Lamport tried to put the outcome into perspective.
The Bulldogs had just lost the Division II state championship game to Lima Bath 1-0 in 11 innings Sunday at Brookside Park, and they did it in the worst way possible.
Committing three errors in the top of the 11th, Poland allowed the deciding run to score.
"If this is the worst thing that happens in your life, then you better thank the Lord," Lamport told his team. "Even though it's the state championship, it's still just a softball game."
First title: Bath (27-3) captured its first state title in a game that was postponed from Saturday due to rain.
"I told our kids that we know what that feels like," Bath coach Laura Ford said of the way Poland (25-7) lost.
With one out, Bath senior Tera Plaugher singled, and junior Grace Luginbuhl laid down a bunt that Poland junior third baseman Michelle Nespeca couldn't handle.
The ball deflected to senior first baseman Heidi Kimmel, who threw it into center field, allowing Plaugher and Luginbuhl to take third and second, respectively.
"I was trying to throw off-balance, and I didn't make a good throw," Kimmel said.
Bath loaded the bases when sophomore designated hitter Janika Horrison reached on a fielder's choice on which Poland couldn't record an out.
Freshman Mary Simindinger grounded into a force-out at home, before junior Latessa Mosley set the stage for Bath's only run.
Mosley hit a chopper back to Poland junior pitcher Sarah Knill, who tried to get the force-out at home, but senior catcher Suzanne Olesko dropped the ball, allowing Luginbuhl to score.
"We practice different situations over and over again," Olesko said. "It was just one of those freak things.
"Sarah decided she wanted to come home with it, and she doubled-pumped," Olesko said. "It was a tough play, and I couldn't come up with the catch. But that's not the play that broke us, because we could have made a lot of other plays."
Lamport said, "We got the groundball; we just didn't make the play. That happens to every team. That happens in the major leagues. We just made one less play than they did."
Missed opportunities: What made the loss even harder for Poland to take was the amount of opportunities it had against Luginbuhl (25-3), Bath's pitcher, who allowed nine hits while striking out 10 and walking none.
"We were hitting the ball hard, and I really thought we were going to win it," Kimmel said. "We just couldn't get the hit when we needed it."
The Bulldogs had base runners in scoring position in the third, fifth and eighth innings but couldn't get them home. In the third, Knill doubled over the left fielder's head, but pinch runner Steffi Graf was left stranded.
In the fifth, sophomore Jessica Lamport doubled into the right-center field gap. She hesitated on her way to third when the ball was bobbled in the outfield, and she was thrown out. The Bulldogs also couldn't capitalize on a bases-loaded situation with two outs later in the inning.
In the eighth, Poland appeared on its way to manufacturing a run when senior Jio Toppi singled, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Katie Naumoff and advanced to third on a fielder's choice. But Toppi was left stranded.
"I don't want to dwell on one play or two plays," Reid Lamport said. "For our first time down here, these girls played so well, and we're going to think of this season as a whole."
Pitched well: Knill (21-5) gave Poland a chance to win by pitching a complete game, allowing seven hits while striking out one and walking none. She retired 16 straight batters at one point.
"She's been good all along," Reid Lamport said of Knill's growth. "The team played so well behind her this year, and that gives you more confidence, too."