Waterford softball bows out of tournament

Waterford’s Jordan Taylor is safe at third base as Southern’s Jaiden Roberts applies a late tag during sectional final softball action Thursday at the Cooper Annex Field. The Wildcats lost, 6-0. Photo by Ron Johnston.

WATERFORD — Waterford High was hurt by the longball.

Visiting Southern slugged three home runs en route to a 6-0 triumph over the third-seeded Wildcats in Ohio Division IV sectional final softball action Thursday.

“(Paige) VanMeter’s a good hitter, and there’s no secret about that,” said WHS skipper Doug Baldwin.

VanMeter, a junior catcher, blasted two round-trippers and drove in three runs for the sixth-seeded Tornadoes, who evened their record at 12-12. Winning pitcher Sydney Cleland, who hurled a five-hit shutout, added a two-run dinger in the final inning to help her cause.

“I’m sure that being in the three spot, she’s a good hitter,” said Baldwin of Cleland. “But she hasn’t necessarily hit the ball hard against us this year.”

During regular-season play, Waterford defeated Southern in Tri-Valley Conference play, 10-7 and 10-1.

“We scored 20 runs against them and didn’t score any tonight, so that’s what’s probably the most disappointing thing,” Baldwin said.

Sophomore center fielder Sydney Huffman was 3-for-3, all singles, at the plate to lead Waterford, which exited with a 15-10 overall record. Sophomore Denise Young added a double, and senior Madison Ohse had a single.

“We hit the ball,” Baldwin said. “Just one strikeout the whole game, and we had a lot of groundballs — and they made plays.

“That’s what she (Sydney Cleland) did well. She kept the ball down. We hit groundballs, and her fielders behind her took care of the rest.”

WHS freshman righty Adah Smitley suffered the mound setback. She went the 7-inning distance in the circle, striking out two and walking one.

Waterford nearly got on the board first in the bottom of the third but came away empty as Cleland pitched out of a bases loaded jam. With the sacks full, Waterford’s Madison Ohse smashed a hard two-out grounder to second, and was out on a bang-bang play at first base.

“We left a lot of runners on base,” Baldwin said.

In the top of the fourth, VanMeter blasted a solo shot off Smitley over the left field fence. After the Southern backstop’s 10th homer of the spring, Lauren Lavender doubled, and Sierra Cleland singled. Then, with two outs, Kati Barton singled home Lavender to make it 2-0.

The Tornadoes stretched their lead to 4-0 in the fifth when VanMeter drilled her 11th home run of the season with one on over the right-center field fence.

“VanMeter’s been hitting the ball well,” said Southern boss Alan Crisp.

In the bottom of the sixth, Young doubled to lead off the frame, and Ohse followed with an infield hit. Both Cats were stranded, though, as Sydney Cleland retired the next three WHS batters.

Cleland herself then hit a two-run homer, her first of the campaign, to left in the top of the seventh to give the Tornadoes a commanding 6-0 cushion.

“I knew our kids had it in them,” said Southern boss Alan Crisp, whose team is scheduled to face state-ranked Fairfield in district tournament action at Minford Thursday (May 18). “We’ve not been able to put our defense and offense together on the same night — and it showed what we can do tonight.”

Playing their last softball game for Waterford were Ashley Dawson, Melanie Radabaugh, Samantha Armstrong, and Ohse.

“The senior class has been a great group of kids to work with,” Baldwin said. “I believe when they were freshmen we made it to the district finals and got beat by the eventual state runner-up.

“We’ve had a couple of rebuilding years but they’ve always worked hard. I’m very proud of each and every one of them. All four will be successful in life. They’ve got good heads on their shoulders.”