DeGRAFF — Riverside had to deal with a problem that has plagued many good softball teams, especially come tournament time: facing a fast pitcher with good movement on her throws only a few days after facing a slow pitcher.
It took No. 4 seed Riverside a long time to get accustomed to the heat Lehman freshman pitcher Annie Stiver brought in a Division IV sectional final on Thursday — nearly all game.
But the normally hot-hitting Pirates got reacquainted with their power in time to avoid an upset.
Senior first baseman Kalin Kreglow crushed a pitch down the middle to right field in the eighth inning that allowed Jalynn Stanley to score from second base and lift Riverside to a 3-2 victory.
“She’s been solid all year hitting for us and she struggled today and kind of got down on herself,” Riverside coach Andy Phelps said of Kreglow. “She just needed a little confidence. She finally put the bat on the ball.”
Riverside (17-7) advances to face Covington in a district semifinal on Tuesday at a site to be determined. The Buccaneers beat Cross County Conference rival Newton 4-3 in a sectional final in eight innings on Thursday to advance.
The hit was the first of the day for Kreglow, who is the team’s No. 4 hitter. She had struck out twice in her previous three at-bats.
“The first three times I was up I lacked confidence,” Kreglow said. “That (last at-bat) was so nerve-wrecking, but I just said to myself that I was just going to go up there and score this run for our team so we can move on in the tournament. I just knew I needed to be a leader being a senior, and I’m just very proud of that moment.”
Phelps directed Kreglow to bunt on the first two pitches she saw of her last at-bat, both of which were strikes.
“I had two strikes on me, and I’m like, ‘I’m going for it,’” Kreglow said. “I just came right down the middle and I hit the ball, and I felt it right off the bat. I knew we were going to win.”
Riverside earned an 11-0 run-rule win over Upper Scioto Valley in a Northwest Central Conference game on Tuesday.
“We faced a really slow pitcher on Tuesday, and it just took us a little bit to get adjusted,” Phelps said. “That’s kind of been a problem all year, that it can take us a bit to get adjusted when going from slow to fast.”
Stiver pitched a complete game and struck out 11 batters while walking four and allowing five hits.
Riverside didn’t get a hit until the third inning, but Stanley, a sophomore pitcher, held the Cavaliers in check as well — until the fourth.
Hope Anthony led off the inning with a double to left field, then Grace Brandt reached on error after a throw flew by Kreglow at first and went into foul territory in left field. Anthony was able to score and put the Cavaliers ahead 1-0.
Riverside got going in the fifth. Shelby Giles earned a walk in an eight pitch at-bat, then Courtnie Smith hit the first pitch she saw over the left-field fence for a two-run home run.
“The errors and not hitting the ball made us not confident, but when Courtnie hit that home run, that made us really confident and connect as a team and made us work harder to get the win,” Kreglow said.
It was the second home run of the season for Smith, who hit her first last Thursday against West Liberty-Salem.
“We needed someone to have a big hit,” Phelps said. “Shelby found a way to get on there and Courtnie got that sweet pitch that she wanted. …Maybe she’s found her power swing in the last part of the season.”
Lehman quickly tied it 2-2 in the bottom half of the fifth, though. Anthony hit another leadoff double to the outfield, then Brandt hit a fielder’s choice that allowed Anthony to move to third. Edwards then hit a sacrifice groundout to score Anthony and tie it up.
Grace Monnin hit a two-out double in the seventh, but Abby Schutt grounded out to end the inning. The Pirates went down in order in the bottom half to send it to extra innings.
Brandt drew a walk with one out in the top half of the eighth but was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by Edwards. Heidi Toner then struck out to end in the inning.
Smith hit into a groundout to start the eighth for Riverside but Stanley hit a single on a hard ground ball that rolled into center field. Kreglow followed with the line-drive single to right to end it.
Stanley pitched a complete game and allowed seven hits and one walk. She had four strikeouts.
“When we need her, she steps up,” Phelps said. “She pitched a great game for us. They got a couple of hits and we had a couple of errors, but she never quits, and that’s what she’s been doing all year.”
Stanley was 2 for 2 at the plate with two walks while Smith was 2 for 3 with one walk.
Monnin was 3 for 4 for Lehman while Anthony was 2 for 3.
It was the second loss of the year to Riverside for the Cavaliers, which finish 7-11 overall. Lehman, which was the Sidney D-IV sectional’s No. 10 seed, lost 9-5 in an NWCC game on April 8.
Lehman will lose several key players to graduation, including Monnin, who had a .614 batting average and led the squad with 38 RBIs and nine home runs.
Most of the Cavaliers’ roster was made of underclassmen, including nine freshman. They’ll look to be in the top half of the NWCC next season with Stiver slated to return.
After struggling early, Stiver came on late in the year. She finishes with a 3.11 ERA and had 102 strikeouts in 89 innings.
“She pitched a great game,” Phelps said. “That’s the best I’ve seen her pitch all year. I give her lots of credit for a great game.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.