CLAYTON — Houston senior Micalah Hensley must have thought it was her job to calm everybody down in the Division 4 Regional softball semifinals Thursday at Northmont.
The Lady Wildcats were up against a New Bremen team that beat them 3-0 back in March, and were facing the same pitcher that shut them out that day.
But Hensley took her coach’s advice and was ready for the first pitch she saw toopen the game. And when she saw it, she gave it a ride, a no-doubter to stake Houston to a 1-0 lead.
The game tightened up in the middle innings, but a big three-run seventh nailed down a 6-2 victory and put the Lady Wildcats in the regional championship game for the first time in school history.
They will take on undefeated Williamsburg (25-0) Saturday at Northmont for the right to advance to the state tournament. Game time has been changed from noon to 2 p.m., and Houston takes a 21-9 mark into the game.
“It was huge,” longtime Houston coach Brent New said of Hensley’s hit. “She (Bremen pitcher Sophie Fox) shut us out the first time, but that fear was shattered right away. It was almost like flipping a switch. The girls were not intimidated, and the hits started coming.”
Hensley’s run wasn’t the only one in the first. After the homer that was the 20th of Hensley’s career, Sarah Monnier singled and Kayla New, while trying to bunt, was hit by a pitch. A grounder forced Monnier at third, but the throw to first was wide, alllowing courtesy runner Brittany Timmerman to make it to third. Kaytlyn Riffell then bunted and Timmerman raced home on a safety squeeze.
Houston made it 3-0 in the third on Monnier’s second single, a sacrifice by New, and a bloop single by Macey Stang.
However, New Bremen got a run in the third and another in the fourth to tighten things up considerably, but the Lady Cardinals’ hopes were dashed when Houston got two in the top of the seventh.
Emily Foster reached on an error, and Hensley singled. After a pop-out, coach New decided to let his daughter Kayla hit away rather than bunt. And she came through in a big way with a double to deep left that plated two more runs. New then came home on an RBI single by Stang.
“Those three runs were big because Macey (Stang) had already pitched two-plus innings (in relief) and that was more than she was used to,” said New. “The fact that she could go out in the bottom of the seventh with a four-run lead was big.”
Houston got a single and a homer from Hensley, two singles from Monnier, two hits and two RBIs from Stang and the big two-run double from New. For Monnier, they were hits 47 and 48 of the season and that’s a new single-season record at the school.
“I felt like we had a good chance,” said New. “Fox is a good pitcher but she doesn’t change speeds a lot, and we have hit fastball pitchers much better. Our top five or six hitters are going to hit fastballs.”
Houston now takes on 25-0 Williamsburg Saturday, with the winner advancing to the state tournament. This is the second time Houston has played in a regional tournament, but the first time to make it to the championship game.
Hou.`201 000 3`6`8`1
NB`001 100 0`2`5`1
WP: Stang; LP: Fox
Records: Houston 21-9, New Bremen 16-6.
Houston’s next game: Saturday, regional championship, 2 p.m. at Northmont vs. Williamsburg.