Waterford falls to Paint Valley in district final, 5-1

MINFORD – Freshman Mikayla Newland was nothing less than dominant Saturday as the Paint Valley Bearcats captured their first ever district championship with a 5-1 victory over the Waterford Lady Wildcats at Minford High School.

Newland surrendered just two hits in the game while striking out 14 Wildcat hitters including at least two in six of her seven innings in the circle.

“We’ve seen some good pitching this year but she was really good today,” said Waterford head coach Doug Baldwin of Newland. “Our kids battled hard up there but she (Newland) won a lot of those battles.”

As one might expect in a district championship game each team played extremely strong fundamental softball the first four innings of the game.

Paint Valley threatened to get on the scoreboard in the second inning when Nellie Rhoads singled with one out, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error only to be thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch.

The Bearcats saw another scoring opportunity slip away in the third when Cheyanne Lightfoot singled with two outs before Waterford centerfielder Nicole Neslein robbed Laci Stanford of extra bases with a fine diving catch in centerfield.

While PV was knocking on the door against Waterford starting pitcher Laura Hill, the Wildcat offense collected only a second inning single by catcher Chelsey Streight through the games first four innings.

The Lady Bearcats finally broke through in the top of the fifth inning and it came with two outs after the Wildcats had turned their second double play in as many innings.

Haley Nash singled and came all the way around to score when Erin Riley drilled a double off the fence in centerfield.

Cheyanne Lightfoot followed with a two-base hit of her own to score Riley and make it a 2-0 game.

The Wildcats got one of those runs back in the last of the fifth without the luxury of a base hit.

Cierra Heiss led off the inning by drawing a base on balls and was replaced at first by pinch runner Sara Armstrong.

Armstrong stole second with two outs and never broke stride as she rounded second base and headed to third.

When the ball was booted by the Bearcat centerfielder, Armstrong came all the way home to score the first Waterford run and cut the Bearcat lead in half at 2-1.

The momentum gained by the green and white lasted all of a half an inning as Paint Valley put three runs on the board in the top of the sixth to increase their lead to four.

Stanford got the inning started with a single and moved to second on a Wildcat error.

Taylor Waugh sacrificed Stanford to third and Newland helped herself with a solid single up the middle to make it 3-1.

One out later Rachel Wafford singled and both runners came in to score when Madison Smith’s fly ball was misplayed in right field for an error.

“Both teams played a really great game those first four or five innings, said Baldwin, the long time Wildcat head coach. “We made a few mistakes and they took advantage of them.”

With the four-run lead to work with, Newland allowed only a one-out double to Lakin Tolson in the sixth inning and a two-out walk to Streight in the seventh before getting Lindsay Arnold to bounce out to third to secure their first ever trip to the regionals.

Hill (10-9) scattered 11 hits in what would be her final game in the circle for the Lady Cats, allowing three earned runs, while walking one and striking out a pair.

Baldwin, though disappointed with the season ending loss, was quite pleased with how his team responded in the post season after a sub .500 regular season.

“We struggled a little bit in the middle of the year but these kids really stepped up,” said Baldwin. “I’m very proud of our team and especially our six seniors.”

Paint Valley (17-9) will advance to play Strausburg-Franklin in a regional semi-final tilt at Pickerington on May 29.