GREENVILLE — Minster has the pitching-hitting combo that has frustrated most opponents this season and vaulted the team to the top of the Division IV state coaches association rankings. And if one component isn’t firing at full strength, it’s easier to deal with if the other still is.
Minster senior pitcher Jenna Poeppelman was hit more than usual by Felicity-Franklin in a Div. IV regional semifinal on Wednesday. But the Wildcats countered by hitting more than usual, took control early and cruised to a 15-6 victory at Stebbins Field in Greenville.
Minster (27-1) will try to earn its first state berth since 2014 on Saturday in Greenville when it faces Mechanicsburg, which beat National Trail 10-3 in Wednesday’s second regional semifinal.
Poeppelman was named first team all-state by the Ohio softball coaches association last week and largely dominated in regular season by posting a 1.11 ERA in over 100 innings of work with 153 strikeouts.
The Cardinals gave Poeppelman more of a workout on Wednesday. They gathered nine hits — including two home runs by Reagan Lowe — and sent many more balls to the outfield that Minster was able to snag.
But Minster’s hitting made Felicity-Franklin’s seem pedestrian by comparison. The Wildcats blasted pitchers Bailee Caudill and Reagan Lowe for 20 hits, including home runs by Poeppelman, Taylor Homan and Kaitlyn Wolf.
“We were seeing it well off both pitchers, and this time of year, you’ve got to hit the ball and play defense,” Minster coach Robb Hemmelgarn said. “Anybody in our lineup, I don’t care if you’re batting No. 1 or batting No. 9, you have the potential to be the hero.”
There were many heroes on Wednesday.
Laney Hemmelgarn finished 5 for 5 while Homan was 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs and four runs. Poeppelman was 3 for 5 with 3 RBIs, Emily Stubbs was 3 for 5 with two runs and Lindsey Albers and Mara Schmiesing each had two hits apiece.
Poeppelman pitched a complete game and had five walks and two strikeouts. All six of Felicity-Franklin’s runs were earned.
“That’s not characteristic of her, but we responded. Our defense responded and our offense responded,” Robb Hemmelgarn said. “She’s going to see that teams are a lot more disciplined at the plate. She needs to learn something from tonight and make herself better.”
Homan blasted a home run about 10 yards over Greenville’s 200-foot fence in the first inning, but Lowe hit the first of her home runs in the bottom half to tie it at 1-1.
Minster took control in the second by scoring five runs on four hits and a walk. The Cardinals had a costly error when left fielder Addie Woodmansee let a line drive by Homan bounce off her glove and land roll behind her after landing. Three runs scored on the error.
“That’s what we’ve wanted to do all season, get on top early,” Hemmelgarn said.
The Wildcats scored six runs on six hits in the third to boost the lead to 12-1. Felicity-Franklin staved off any threat of a run rule by scoring three runs on two hits and a walk in the bottom half. All runs scored when Lowe hit a home run on a line drive to center field.
The Cardinals added two runs on two hits and two walks in the fifth to pull within 12-6.
Neither team scored again until the Wildcats added three runs on five hits in the seventh. The runs were scored when Poeppelman hit a two-run home run to center field and Kaitlyn Wolf followed with a solo home run to left.
“We told them that they were going to throw punches at you, and from watching them Saturday, we knew they were a team that has fight in them,” Hemmelgarn said. “We knew if we got up on them they were going to come back, and they did. The key was to deliver that next punch, and we did it.
“… When they trimmed it to 12-6, we started tensing up a little bit. It just seemed like we were playing a little more conservative.”
Now the Wildcats will look for their second regional title in program history on Saturday. Hemmelgarn said the team will have a challenge against Mechanicsburg, which improved to 19-3 on Wednesday.
The Indians were ranked No. 3 in D-IV in the final state poll and have a .413 team batting average. They’re led in pitching circle by Francys King, who entered Wednesday with a 1.42 ERA after striking out 124 batters in 93 2/3 innings.
“We’re going to see everyone’s best shot from here on out, and we know it,” Hemmelgarn said. “This game made us better.
“… Mechanicsburg is a good team. We’ve sent people to there last couple of games, and they’re a team that reminds us a lot of us. We know at this level, we’re going to see the best. We know we’re not going to get any gimmes, so we’re going to have to get better the next two days. We had some mistakes tonight and have to fix them. We’re going to attack them just like they have everybody else and hope for a good game.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.