By John Bombatch
XENIA — Combining solid defense and clutch hitting with senior Morgan McClain’s stellar pitching, the host Xenia Buccaneers girls varsity softball team exploded for a 7-1 win over visiting Springfield on Friday.
Xenia (3-1) fell behind by a run, went ahead by a run, then slugged its way to a four-hit, five-run sixth inning to pull away for the win.
After Springfield (0-5) jumped out in front, 1-0 in the fifth, on Lilly Taylor’s RBI single that scored Annmeri Turner from second, the Wildcats’ brief go-ahead run seemed to awaken the Buccaneers’ bats.
In Xenia’s half of the fifth, Sydney Smith — the younger sister of Buc wrestling standout Cody Smith — singled to center to start the inning. She then advanced to second on Bailey Oliver’s groundout to second. Then after Kaitlyn Wormsley’s deep flyout to center, Smith ambled home on Abigail Shinkle’s equally deep blast to right center field. Shinkle then scored on a Springfield throwing error to put Xenia out in front, 2-1.
With one out in the sixth, Springfield’s Haddix bashed a double to right field, but a nifty Katlyn Tuck-to-Kerstin Morris-to-McClain-to-Wormsley relay threw out Haddix as she slid into third for the crucial second out. McClain got the next Wildcat batter to groundout to third to end the inning.
The Bucs’ bats stayed alive in the bottom of the sixth. That’s when Shinkle, Tuck, Morris, Smith and Oliver each scored on single RBIs by Shinkle and Sage Turner, and Smith’s two-RBI double to center.
Turner had three doubles in the game and also reached base on an error, and Smith went 3-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI.
“We’re a very solid team this year, ” Xenia coach Joe Turner explained, “and I think a lot of that is because we’re more experienced and more confident in the way we can play. But I think we didn’t emotionally get fired up today until Springfield went ahead with their run. That’s when we really laid it on them.”
McClain and Springfield pitcher Kayleigh Haddix battled to a scoreless tie through four innings of play.
Both teams had runners perched on third base, 60 feet away from scoring. But both opposing teams came up with solid defensive plays to end the threat.
Xenia catcher Abigail Shinkle threw out a Wildcat would-be base stealer in the second inning. The trio of Shinkle, Wormsley and second baseman Oliver caught another Wildcat trying to steal an extra base in the third. Xenia utilized a Tuck-to-Wormsley-to-Kerstin Norris play to gun down yet another Springfield runner at second in the fourth.
The Bucs had runners on second and third with nobody out in the fourth inning, but Springfield’s Haddix retired the next three Xenia batters to end the threat.
Wildcats coach Rebecca Santonastaso said her team’s defensive errors turned things Xenia’s way in the late innings.
“We played well until we made some costly fielding errors. Those really hurt us,” she said. “I did think Kayleigh (Haddix) pitched a nice game, and she had a double and reached on a walk. And Lilly Turner drove in our only run and came up with two nice hits. We played well, but we have to limit our mistakes.
“We’ll see them again at our place on Friday (April 8) for a rematch.”
Before that, Springfield will host Springfield Shawnee for a doubleheader today. Xenia has a twinbill of its own today. They play at Greenon for a pair of games. Both team’s doubleheaders will take place at 11 a.m. and then 1 p.m.