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Taylor’s inside-the-park GS lifts Waterford in sectional

From left to right, Waterford first baseman Riley Schweikert, head coach Doug Baldwin, shortstop Alayna Jones and center fielder Cara Taylor huddle during a mound visit against South Gallia Thursday. Waterford won, 9-1, to claim a Division IV sectional championship. (Photo by Jordan Holland)

WATERFORD — Cara Taylor’s inside-the-park grand slam in the sixth inning Thursday put the exclamation point on Waterford’s 9-1 victory over South Gallia, clinching a sectional championship for the Wildcats.

The Rebels battled host Waterford to a scoreless tie through three-and-a-half innings, but the Wildcats (19-7) finally got to South Gallia starter Makayla Waugh in the bottom of the fourth. Taylor created havoc on the basepaths with her speed, hitting a single to center, moving to second on an error and stealing third. She then scored easily on Alayna Jones’ sacrifice fly to center to make it 1-0.

The Wildcats added four runs apiece in the fifth and sixth.

In the fifth, Mackenzie Suprano scored from second on an infield single by Taylor. Suprano alertly broke from the third on a throw back to the pitcher to make it 2-0. Later, with runners on second and third, Riley Schweikert smashed a base knock to plate two more runs and make it 5-0.

Then, in the sixth, Waterford loaded the bases for Taylor. The left-handed hitting junior smoked a line drive the other way out of the reach of the left fielder.

By the time South Gallia got the ball into the infield, Taylor was sliding into home plate for a grand slam.

Waterford head coach Doug Baldwin said it was only a matter of time before his offense got the results they wanted.

“We had some good shots, (South Gallia) just made some great plays in the first couple innings,” he said.

“A week ago we played the same game with them. I think they were ahead of us 1-0 going into the third or fourth inning. Then we opened up and scored 11.”

Kari Carney pitched a complete game for the Wildcats. The lefty struck out seven batters and walked just one, allowing five hits and one earned run. Jessie Rutt led the top of the sixth off with a single and scored on Layla Hurlow’s double to right-center. Hurlow went to third on the throw home, but was stranded there after Carney got a groundout, strikeout and popout to end the inning.

“Kari did a great job,” Baldwin said.

“We batted all year and she’s really starting to come into her own on the mound. She kept them off balance most of the night. They had a couple good shots there, but other than that she did a good job.”

Taylor, Schweikert and Josey Elliott all had three hits for Waterford. Brier Offenberger had a double while Suprano and Lakyn Jones both had singles to account for Waterford’s 11 hits. The Wildcats did not commit an error.

Rutt and Payton Halley had two hits apiece for the Rebels. Waugh pitched all six innings, finishing with one walk and no strikeouts. The Rebels made five errors.

“We’ve just got to keep working and play hard,” said Baldwin, whose Wildcats last won a sectional title in 2019. They did not get a chance to repeat last year with the season being canceled due to COVID-19. That gave them extra motivation this spring.

“It’s just part of our goals,” Baldwin continued. “A lot of these kids played as sophomores and freshmen two years ago when we were district runner-up. They want to get back to that point. This is the first step to getting there.”

The next step is Tuesday’s district semifinal. Waterford will travel to Symmes Valley, 16-2 winners over Paint Valley Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m., with the winner advancing to the district final at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Rio Grande.

“They’ve got a really strong program year in and year out,” Baldwin said of Symmes Valley. “We’ll make the trip down there and give it everything we’ve got and hopefully come out with another win.”

Contact Jordan Holland at jholland@newsandsentinel.com.

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