Softball: Minster beats Tri-Village 5-3 for regional title, state berth


CLAYTON — Minster junior pitcher Brooklyn Osterloh said the team isn’t a speedy group that steals bases like other squads but has found success as a power-hitting club.

The strong hitting resulted in the team earning its first state berth in 10 years.

The Wildcats came up with big hits in the sixth and beat Tri-Village 5-3 in a Division IV regional final on Friday at Northmont High School to earn the program’s second state berth and first since 2014. They will play Strasburg-Franklin in a state semifinal this Thursday at Firestone Stadium in Akron.

Minster (29-1) had 11 hits on Friday, four of which were extra-base hits. After the Patriots scored two in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead, Hailee Albers hit a line-drive single to right to drive in two runs in the top of the sixth, and Mikaela Hoskins drove in an insurance run in the seventh on a one-out double to center.

“Our lineup is really strong,” Osterloh said. “It’s something that we’ve always talked about. We don’t really have any small, fast girls like a lot of these other lineups do, but if we just play our game, and we keep hitting the ball like we know we know how to, our entire team can hit the ball or the fence.”

The Wildcats have a .364 team batting average and have accumulated 124 extra-base hits, 33 of which have been home runs. Junior third baseman Addi Inskeep hit a solo home run in the third to give Minster a 2-0 lead.

“There’s just no part of our lineup that I don’t have confidence in,” Minster coach Robb Hemmelgarn said. “I know the other years, it’s like we get through that one through five, and six, seven, eight, we’ve got to make hay.

“But we can start a rally at any point in our lineup, and that’s a comfort.”

The bottom of the lineup came up big on Friday. Albers, a senior second baseman, senior catcher Hannah Oldiges, senior right fielder Emma Linn and senior Alayna Prenger all had two hits on Friday. Oldiges, Linn and Albers are the squad’s fifth, sixth, and seventh hitters, and Prenger is its ninth hitter.

Tri-Village’s Camryn Osborne hit a solo home run in the fourth to bring the Patriots within 2-1, then the squad scored two runs on three hits and a walk in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead; Osborne drove in a run on a double to left field.

But Oldiges hit a line-drive single to left to start the top of the sixth, then Linn hit a line-drive double to left field. Albers then drove in two runs on a line drive to right to give the Wildcats a 4-3 lead.

Hoskins, a senior first baseman who is the squad’s cleanup hitter, drove in a run with one out in the seventh on a hard ground ball double to center.

“It’s just everybody knows to do their job,” Hemmelgarn said. “Everybody knows their role and accepts it. It’s been a good formula for us all.”

Osterloh, who has a 1.70 ERA and has struck out 158 batters in 132 innings, gave up three earned runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts on Friday.

She walked the first batter of the seventh but coaxed a ground out from Emma Greer, then struck out the next two batters to end it. The final batter she faced was Osborne, who struck out on five pitches.

“I think a lot of it was just hitting my spots,” Osterloh said. “… One thing I’ve really worked on with my pitching coach is really working on placing the ball and giving hitters different movement all the time. Not sticking with the same pitch, to keep them off guard. Whether it’s coming up high inside and going low out, really keeping them off balance throughout the entire lineup.”

Minster has been building toward this state run. The Wildcats were 19-7 two years ago and 24-4 last season; they were knocked out by Midwest Athletic Conference foes in district play each year.

The squad beat MAC rival New Bremen 7-1 in a district final last week and was optimistic about its chances in the regional this year. MAC rival Parkway won the regional a year ago.

“Things started kind of lining up for us way back when they did the district alignments,” Hemmelgarn said. “Parkway’s D-III, Lincolnview and Crestview (were in different districts). If we take care of our business, things looked good for us, and we’ve taken care of business and more in more ways every time we come out.”

The squad has five seniors and four juniors, almost all of which are key players.

“Between (our seniors) they have like 18 years of starting varsity,” Hemmelgarn said. “We’ve got a lot of four-year starters; the rest are three-year starters. They put in a crap ton of work, in the offseason, in season, over the years. I feel they’ve earned this.”

Minster was ranked No. 2 in the final state coaches association D-IV poll of the season, while defending state champion Strasburg-Franklin was ranked No. 1. The Tigers (29-3) rallied and beat No. 3-ranked Portsmouth Notre Dame (23-5) in a regional final on Friday to advance.

The squads are scheduled to face off at 10 a.m. this Thursday in Akron; Vienna Mathews (22-7) and Monroeville (22-6) are scheduled to play at 12:30 p.m. in the second D-IV state semifinal. The two winners are slated to face off in the D-IV final at 10 a.m. next Saturday.

Hemmelgarn took over as Minster’s coach in 2017 after serving as an assistant the year before.

“So all new territory for all of us,” Hemmelgarn said of playing in Akron. “But it doesn’t mean we’re going to be starstruck or won’t take care of business.”

Tri-Village finishes 24-2 overall. The Patriots are set to return most of their squad; only two players are seniors.

Reach Sidney Daily News editor Bryant Billing at 937-538-4822, or follow @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook or @TopBillingSport on X (Twitter).

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