By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Considering that all the teams in the Class 4A Warsaw sectional are members of the NLC, except for one, it’s not a great surprise that a pair of league teams will square off for the championship of the high school girls softball sectional.
The No. 2 ranked Northridge Raiders scored six runs over the fourth and fifth innings to defeat the Elkhart Central Blue Blazers (the non NLC team) 7-0 in the first semifinal on Wednesday. Concord got home runs from senior Leslie Crawford and junior Jenny Miller in an 11-5 win over the host Tigers in the nightcap.
Northridge and Concord will clash in the finale on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The winner will host the South Bend champion in a one-game regional on Tuesday.
The Northridge-Central game was a pitcher’s duel for the first three innings as Northridge junior Haley Nixon and Central junior Cassie Shelton locked horns. Shelton limited the Raider offense to a single over the first three innings while Nixon held the Blazers hitless until the fifth.
Nixon allowed just two hits while striking out eight and walking none.
“Haley strikes out eight that means there are 13 other outs for the rest of the team to get,” Northridge coach Bo O’Dell said. “That means the defense has to make the plays behind her.”
The Raiders finished the game with eight hits. Junior Hannah Kistler had a double, junior Brianne O’Dell two singles and junior Brooke Maes two singles.
“We have been trying to be more patient at the plate,” O’Dell said. “When we are facing a pitcher we have not seen before we want to take enough pitches to see what they throw. Once wee know their pitches the results are better later on in the game. I think you saw that tonight.”
Central coach Todd King said,” Our girls came out ready to play. They didn’t let Northridge intimidate them.
“Shelton has come a low way this season. She started the season with only two pitches. Now she has four.
“Nixon did a good job of mixing her pitches and staying on top of them.”
Crawford got Concord off to a good start with her two-run shot in the first inning and Miller capped things off in the seventh with her three-run blast.
“That part of the batting order has been good for us,” Concord coach Dawn Austin said. “They are tough outs.”
It was Crawford’s first round tripper of the season and Miller’s fourth.
“It’s so good to see Leslie back in the lineup,” Austin said. “She tore a hamstring right after spring break and was out of action for a month. This week is the first time she had been pain free.”
Sophomore Madi Jackowiak had four singles and an RBI for Concord.
Concord took a 6-0 lead in the fourth. Crawford had a two-run single.
Warsaw cut the deficit in half with three ion the bottom of the sixth. With one out on the scoreboard Austin when out to talk to her team and sophomore pitcher Rae Ann Miller.
“I told them to make the plays,” the coach said.
It worked as Rae Ann Miller retired the next to hitters.
Central 000 000 0 — 0-2-0
Northridge 000 241 x — 7-8-0
Pitching: (Northridge) Haley Nixon (W) eight strikeouts and no walks. (Central) Cassie Shelton (L) five strikeouts and one walk.
Hitting: (Northridge) Hannah Kistler double, RBI; Haley Nixon single, RBI; Brooke Maes two singles, Brianne O’Dell two singles, Madison Schrock single, Grace Grevengoed single, (Central) Emily Namisnak single, Isabella Zepeda single.
Concord 200 402 3 — 11-14-1
Warsaw 000 030 2 — 5--9-3
Pitching: (Concord) Rae Ann Miller (W) five strikeouts and four walks. Jennifer Miller two strikeouts and one walk. (Warsaw) Kaleigh Speicher and Whitney Sleeth.
Hitting: (Concord) Jennifer Miller home run, single, three RBI; Leslie Crawford home run, single, four RBI; Madi Jackowiak four single, RBI; McKenzie Loge double, single; Kennadie Lopez two singles. (Warsaw) Karly Jones home run, single, three RBI; Ashley Ousley double, single, RBI; Kara Dishman double, Ashton Warren double.