Unfinished business? Not anymore for the Golden Eagles.
Big Walnut won its first Central District championship since winning the 1988 Division II title under coach Ron Walters with Saturday morning’s 3-1 victory over St. Francis DeSales in the Division I Central District title game at Pickerington Central High School. With the victory, the 11th seeded Golden Eagles (19-8) advanced to Thursday’s Division I Regional semifinals where they will take on third-seeded Gahanna (26-2) at 5 p.m. at The Ohio State University.
Big Walnut wasted little time in taking the early lead, striking for 2 runs in the bottom of the second inning on starting and winning pitcher Kate Petty’s 2-out, 2-run single to center field for a 2-0 lead. Third baseman Hayley Apple led off the inning with a single through the middle of the diamond. With one out, second baseman Leah Shew drew a walk moving Apple to second. After both runners moved up on Jessica Coletta’s groundball out, Petty lined a single to center to score both Apple and Shaw.
Petty, known for her dominating pitching performances this season, has also been a key factor in the Golden Eagles’ postseason success with her timely hitting of late noted Big Walnut head coach Jeff Hatfield.
“We used a designated hitter for Kate since the season opened,” he said. “As the season progressed, our designated hitters continued to struggle at the plate so we decided to let Kate hit for herself.”
It was the right decision at the right time of the season for the Golden Eagles.
In Big Walnut’s last two tournament outings, Petty’s bat has been a key factor in victories over Bishop Watterson and Pickeringon Central.
“It turned out to be a pretty good idea on our part,” Hatfield said. “Kate has had three hits and two runs batted in in our last two games … and she continues to be awesome in the middle of the diamond.”
DeSales (15-11) scored its lone run run in fourth inning as sophomore shortstop Leah Roten homered over the center field fence to pull to within a run of the lead at 2-1. From that point on, Petty was in complete control.
After the Golden Eagles added a run in the bottom of the fourth on Coletta’s 2-out double off the center field fence and Rolen’s throwing error for a 3-1 lead, Petty shut the Stallions down the rest of the way, stranding four baserunners over the final three innings.
The Stallion had runners at second base with one out in both the fifth and sixth innings, but Petty used three groundball outs and an infield popup to end the threats. In the seventh, Kristine Byrum led off with a double, but Petty fanned the next batters. An infield single by Lauren Williams moved Byrum to third, but Petty was again equal to the task, ending the game on Catie Woods fly out to left field.
In her 7 innings, Petty allowed one run, earned, on 5 hits and 3 bases on balls. She struck out 6.
Cameron Barber started and went the distance for DeSales, giving up 3 runs, 2 earned, on 7 hits. She walked 1 and struck out 1.
“I’m so proud of our team,” Hatfield said. “Everyone, especially our seniors, stepped up and contributed in one way or another … it was a complete team effort.”
Both the Golden Eagles and the Lady Stallions were making their first appearances in the DI tournament.
The Big Walnut-Gahanna winner will play the winner of the Olentangy Liberty (19-7)-Grove City (23-6) game at 12 noon on Saturday for a berth in the OHSAA State Tournament.