The Hilliard Darby High School softball team used a big fourth inning and rode the arm of sophomore pitcher Kellie Roudabush to beat Teays Valley 3-1 in a Division I regional championship Saturday at Ohio State.

The Hilliard Darby High School softball team used a big fourth inning and rode the arm of sophomore pitcher Kellie Roudabush to beat Teays Valley 3-1 in a Division I regional championship Saturday at Ohio State.

The Panthers advanced to the state tournament for the second time and will play Oregon Clay or Elyria in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Thursday at Firestone Stadium in Akron.

"What a great effort by these girls today," said coach Kevin Moody, whose team improved to 21-8 as it won for the 16th time in 17 games. "We were diving for outs, hustling everywhere, making plays behind Kellie and coming up with clutch hits. This is just a wonderful feeling."

In the top of the fourth inning, Alivia Nikolaus led off with a single to left field. Hiedi Graessle grounded into a fielder's choice, but then raced around to score when Katie Davis drove a double to the fence in left-center field.

"This is pretty exciting," Davis said. "It was just an inside pitch that I was able to drive and it was placed well. Good things happen when you try to stay within yourself and just do your part. The hit set everybody off. We all started hitting and our confidence skyrocketed."

Roudabush followed with a bloop single to right field and took second base on the throw home, which sent Davis back to third base.

Mary-Kate O'Shea, a left-handed hitter, then slapped a bloop double over third base that landed inches inside the foul line to score both runners.

"I was just trying to hit it where it was pitched and it was the perfect pitch for what I was trying to do," O'Shea said. "I had no idea where it landed I was just running my heart out. They told me it basically hit the line, so I guess I was fortunate."

Teays Valley, which finished 25-6, had one hit in each of the first three innings and all three times the runner reached scoring position. But Roudabush ended the threats in the first and second innings with strikeouts and Kelsey Price popped out to Simone Luzader to end the third.

The Vikings got a two-out run in the fifth inning, as Niki Curtiss singled and scored when Keelee Nester floated a triple to center field. The Panthers were looking for a bunt and had shortstop Abby Kennedy covering third base and center-fielder Graessle covering second. Right-fielder Nikolaus made a diving attempt at the fly ball.

"That's just the way our defense was set up, so I wasn't worried about it," said Roudabush, who allowed seven hits but also had three of the Panthers' seven hits. "It made my stomach a little queasy, but you just have to bear down in those spots. They took advantage of what we gave them."

Roudabush then got a groundout to Davis at third base to end the inning.
Teays Valley also had a leadoff single in the sixth and a two-out single in the seventh, but Roudabush worked through it.

"Kellie stayed focused and tried to keep hitting her spots, but Teays Valley was the best hitting team we've seen," Moody said. "Give them some credit. Kellie came in here on fire and they put the ball in play and executed well against us. But Kellie is on a mission and the girls have raised their game around here. So this is sweet."