CHILLICOTHE — South Webster’s magical season will officially continue to write its historic story.
The Jeeps (23-4) punched their tickets to the program’s second-ever Elite 8 in its current division, defeating West on Wednesday by a 3-2 final in a Division III regional semifinal.
“Having seen [West pitcher] Sydney [McDermott] twice, we had an idea of what she pitches and we really focused on that in practice,” South Webster coach Andy Messer said. “We did everything we could to get the girls comfortable in the box and beat their bats to the ball. She spins the ball so many ways and it moves all around the plate. But the girls did a great job of hanging in and attacking.”
Both teams had their chances to strike first, but weren’t able to capitalize due to stellar defensive play.
However, South Webster got an opportunity in the top of the sixth and took full advantage of that moment.
With runners on first and third, Lauren Kaltenbach stepped up and caught the end of the ball with her bat and raced down the line. Meanwhile, Skylar Zimmerman beat the throw home for a 1-0 lead.
“I was a little nervous during that at-bat since I don’t hit for power, though it’s something I’ve been working on recently,” Kaltenbach said. “But I knew we’d be good if I could find a spot where their corners couldn’t field the ball, get me or Skylar out, and luckily I found it.”
During the next at-bat, West tried to catch the Jeeps’ runners stealing but committed a throwing error and a fielding error in the same exact sequence. The miscue allowed both runners to score, pushing the lead to 3-0.
“The important thing for us was getting the ball in play,” Messer said. “[Sydney] McDermott is such a tough pitcher and has been for years. We tried to play aggressive earlier and it cost us. But we managed to finally cash in.”
West (26-4), however, wasn’t going away easily.
Shortstop Emily Moore was determined to extend the sixth inning with a two-out solo shot that carried over the center field fence.
The next hitter, Kaylor Pickelsimer, followed suit and ripped a solo blast of her own near the same spot, trimming the Jeeps’ lead to 3-2.
“Skylar told me to just keep my head up and let those batters go since we still had the lead,” South Webster’s Jaiden White said. “I still had my defense behind me, so I needed to continue throwing strikes.”
South Webster then committed a fielding error of its own, setting up West with the tying run in scoring position. However, the Jeeps got a pop out to end the threat before three straight outs in the seventh sent them to the Elite 8.
White earned the win in the circle, throwing a complete game, allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out a pair of hitters. Kaltenbach finished 2-for-3 with an RBI.
For West, McDermott suffered the loss in a complete game effort. She allowed just four hits and struck out nine. Offensively, Moore was 2-for-3 with a home run and an RBI and Pickelsimer added a solo home run.
South Webster now advances to a Division III regional final at 5 p.m., Friday against Wheelersburg.
“These guys love playing the game, but I know they’d rather continue it with their friends before getting to travel ball,” Messer said. “This group is like a stick of dynamite and they’re full of energy, so we’ll play our game and see what happens.”