NEW BREMEN — The tournament is still several weeks away, but Minster gave more evidence in a Midwest Athletic Conference game on Thursday in New Bremen that it is primed to make a deep run.
New Bremen was fresh off a victory over previously undefeated Parkway and was looking to stay in the MAC race but failed to keep up with the Wildcats, who scored seven runs in the sixth inning to close out a 13-1 victory.
It’s the 11th victory by a margin of 10 or more runs for Minster (16-0, 4-0 MAC), which debuted at No. 2 in the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Association’s Division IV all-state poll last week. The No. 1 ranked team was Parkway, which lost 12-9 to the Cardinals in extra innings on Tuesday.
The Wildcats racked up 14 hits on Thursday while senior pitcher Jenna Poeppelman gave up three hits and one earned run and struck out 10 batters.
But just as important according to Minster coach Robb Hemmelgarn was the fact that Minster didn’t commit any errors, which have been rare for the squad this season.
“Our hitting’s been really solid, but I tell our girls that we really want to pride ourselves on our defense,” Hemmelgarn said. “Jenna had a good night, but we had some really good defensive plays tonight. It’s not just about the hitting, because we’ve got to save runs, too.”
After dark storm clouds lightly rained on the field during warmups, the rain gradually lightened and dissipated. And as the rain slowed, Minster’s hitting increased.
Minster took advantage of two errors by New Bremen (12-5, 2-2) in the first inning and scored two runs, then took a 4-0 lead after scoring two runs on three hits in the third. Taylor Homan hit a double on a line drive to center field in the third to score both runs.
“In a game like this, you’re watching the sky all day and then with it raining in pregame, your mind can start to overthink things,” Hemmelgarn said. “… We came out and established those two early runs, and that was huge for us to force them into a couple of errors that we capitalized on. It just sort of rolled from there.”
Minster added two runs on two hits in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead, but New Bremen scored when Kelly Naylor led off the bottom half of the inning with a home run to left field.
Poeppelman, who will play collegiately at Sinclair Community College, struck out four of the last 11 batters she faced and gave up just two more hits, both of which were singles in the seventh.
“She was high in the zone today and they were swinging at them at good times for us,” Hemmelgarn said. “She was down at times, too, and I think kept them off balance.”
The Wildcats put it away in the sixth. Emily Stubbs led off the inning with a double to left field, then Mara Schmiesing singled to right field. Karly Richard drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, then Danielle Barhorst hit a two-run home run to left field to increase the lead to 9-1.
Homan then singled on a hard ground ball to right field and Kaitlyn Wolf reached on an infield error. The Cardinals swapped starting pitcher Molly Smith for twin Erin Smith, but the hitting continued.
Poeppelman hit a two-run home run to left field and Laney Hemmelgarn later drove in two runs on a double to right field.
Stubbs was 3 for 3 and scored two runs while Barhorst, Homan, Poeppelman and Laney Hemmelgarn each had two hits apiece. Barhorst led the squad with 3 RBIs.
The loss is just the second run-rule defeat the Cardinals have suffered this season.
“They came out to hit, and we didn’t,” New Bremen coach Elly Puthoff said. “It was as simple as that.”
Minster, which plays at perennial Division II power Greenville (14-1) on Saturday, is tied for first place in the MAC with Versailles (7-5, 4-0). The Tigers beat Parkway 9-6 on Thursday to stay undefeated in MAC play.
“This is a win we really needed,” Hemmelgarn said. “A big rival, and a big MAC win on the road. …We know New Bremen and know their hitters and know they can score runs in bunches, so we knew we were going to have to crank up our defense tonight, and we were able to do that. That’s a great team, and the chances are that we could see them again at some point (in the tournament), and it’ll be a battle.”
New Bremen will play next on Friday at home against Sidney.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.