ARCANUM — CeCe Borchers came up with a big late hit to help Russia’s softball team eke out its second consecutive close tournament win.
Borchers got her first hit of the day in the bottom of the eighth when she hit a single to center field to score one run and lift the Raiders over Riverside 6-5 in a Division IV district semifinal on Tuesday at Arcanum High School. The squad advances to face Ansonia in a district final on Friday at Versailles High School.
Borchers hit a 2-RBI double in the seventh inning of a sectional final against Triad on Thursday to tie it 4-4 and send it to extra innings.
It was Riverside who battled back Tuesday. The Pirates fell behind 5-2 after five innings, but two solo home runs in the sixth and one in the seventh tied it.
But Borchers made a hit in the eighth to end it. After Ava Daniel drew a walk and Kendall Monnin reached on an error, Borchers worked up a full count before sending a fly to shallow center field to score Daniel.
Borchers, who is the squad’s No. 9 hitter, was 0 for 3 before the eighth-inning hit and had struck out once.
“That’s what she does for us,” Russia coach Michelle Muhlenkamp said. “It may take her an at-bat or two to figure it out, but that’s what she does in the nine hole. She’s just so even-keeled every time. Whether she’s striking out or hitting the game-winning hit, she’s just so cool all the time.
“That’s what I love about that kid. She’s so athletic, I know she’ll figure it out. That’s what she did.”
Russia (23-2) was ranked No. 9 in Div. IV in the final state coaches association poll, but the Raiders have faced tight situations in their first two postseason games. They battled back from a 4-0 deficit against Triad to win 5-4 in extra innings before pulling out another tournament win in the eighth on Tuesday.
Muhlenkamp said she’s proud of the team’s resiliency, especially in sophomore pitcher Makena Hoying.
The teams combined to hit six home runs on Tuesday, four of which were by the Pirates. Alaina Snow and Jenna Woods hit consecutive home runs off Hoying about five yards behind the left-field fence in the sixth, then Jade Copas hit a homer about 10 yards behind the left-field fence in the seventh to tie it.
Hoying struck out two batters to end the seventh, then struck out one in the eighth.
“That shows a lot of growth in Makena,” Muhlenkamp said. “She as a younger pitcher would have really got flustered by that. But she stepped right back up there after those home runs, and we got the outs.
“I’m proud of the growth that she’s made as a pitcher to be able to handle those moments and stay in there and keep her head in the game.”
Riverside coach Andy Phelps said he was pleased with how his squad fought back, especially since they suffered an 11-3 loss to Russia in a regular-season game on March 30.
“I’m super proud of them,” Phelps said. “To come out and take them to eight innings, a team that’s only got two losses, I can’t complain one bit.
“… We had a couple of miscues there at the end and had runners on third a couple of times and couldn’t get them in. That’s what’s been our downfall all year, just the little things.
The Pirates, which were second in their final season in the Northwest Central Conference, finish 14-14 overall. They will lose three seniors to graduation in second baseman Malina Kreglow, left fielder Sierra Snow and third baseman Kylee Angle.
“Three great girls,” Phelps said. “This is Kylee’s first year at Riverside. She came from Piqua. The other two have been in the program since junior high. They all mean a lot to our team. We really wanted to get this win for them.”
The No. 3 seed Raiders traveled to Anna for their final regular-season game on Wednesday before Friday’s matchup with No. 6 Ansonia, which beat Cross County Conference rival and No. 5 seed Covington 9-7 in a district semifinal on Tuesday. The Tigers knocked out Fort Loramie in a sectional final last week.
Russia has never won a district title.
“We’re looking to make some history with this group,” Muhlenkamp said. “I think we’ve got the talent and the heart and the belief in each other to do it.”
Woods hit a two-run home run to center field with two outs in the first inning to give Riverside a 2-0 lead, but Russia took control in the bottom half.
Reese Goubeaux hit a home run with one out to right field to cut the gap to one, then Saige Hoying hit a two-run home run to right three batters later to give Russia a 3-2 lead.
“I think that was huge,” Muhlenkamp said. “I think that was a defining moment in the game even though it was so early. To not just lay down in that first but to be able to get three runs back showed our mentality.”
Goubeaux led off the third with a line-drive double, then catcher Riley Hammonds followed with a double to left to score Goubeaux and increase the lead to 4-2.
Kennedi Doseck hit an RBI single with two outs in the fifth to increase the lead to 5-2, but Riverside fought back and tied it.
Goubeaux and Hammonds hit consecutive singles to get Russia started in the bottom of the seventh, but Makena Hoying struck out, then Saige Hoying and Kelby Doseck hit fly outs to end the inning.
Angle hit a one-out single in the eighth for Riverside in the eighth, but Makena Hoying struck out Kreglow, then Hammonds picked off Angle at first.
Makena Hoying gave up five earned runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out eight batters.
Alaina Snow started and gave up five earned runs on eight hits and one walk for the Pirates while striking out three. Jenna Woods came on in the seventh and gave up two hits and two walks.
Hammonds, Goubeaux and Doseck were each 2 for 3 for Russia. Woods was 2 for 2 with two walks for Riverside and leadoff hitter Amerra Huston was 2 for 4.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.