In a Division I regional semifinal today at Ohio State, the Grove City High School softball team will face Hilliard Darby.

In a Division I regional semifinal today at Ohio State, the Grove City High School softball team will face Hilliard Darby.

The Panthers were the only team to beat pitcher Paige Myers this season (4-3 on April 17), but Erin Galloway couldn't be happier about the matchup.

Minutes after Grove City defeated Teays Valley 2-1 in a district final May 21 to improve to 26-3, Darby, which is 22-5, wrapped up a district title with a 4-3 win over Westerville South and the Greyhounds learned they'd be playing a team they led 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning the last time they played.

"We had them all the way to the bottom of the seventh and they came back with hit after hit and came back and won," Galloway said. "We're very happy to be playing Darby. We want to be able to beat them."

When those teams met earlier this season, Grove City was 10-0 and was coming off a game against Upper Arlington on April 15 in which the offense struggled -- the game ended in a scoreless tie after the eighth inning and was postponed because of darkness. Darby was in the midst of a five-game stretch in which it was 4-1, and it was a point in the season when the Panthers had started to become self-assured.

"I think it gave us a lot of confidence and showed we can compete with good teams," Darby left-fielder Megan Lane said. "It helped us focus and know where we are in the standings."

Darby freshman Kellie Roudabush earned the win in that game, holding Grove City to three hits. She eventually was 9-1 in her first 10 decisions with a 0.64 ERA. Roudabush earned the win in the district championship game, which also was won in the bottom of the seventh inning after Darby had fallen behind 3-0.

Darby's Hiedi Graessle, whom Myers walked to start the four-run inning in the first meeting, walked to begin the final inning against South. She was Darby's top offensive threat during the regular season with a .463 batting average. Other top hitters for Darby were Katie Davis (.377), Roudabush (.364) and Lane (.300).

The Panthers, who were seeded third for the district tournament, had a first-round bye and then beat Westerville North 7-0 in a second-round game May 14 before defeating ninth-seeded Pickerington Central 1-0 in a district semifinal May 19.

The Greyhounds also took a first-round bye before defeating Reynoldsburg 9-0 in nine innings May 14 and Hilliard Davidson 10-0 in a district semifinal five days later. The last time these two teams met in the postseason was in 2003 when Darby beat Grove City 6-0 in a district title game.

The one thing that Williams will make sure of is letting Myers know she's not out there alone. He didn't hesitate to call for a conference in the circle in the top of the seventh inning against Teays Valley. After Myers walked a batter with two outs. She fell behind 2-1 to the next batter. Williams came out of the dugout for the second time in two innings. Myers ended up striking out the final batter to end the game. He failed to call for a conference against Darby.

"Paige was doing pretty well," Williams said. "(Darby) put a couple of hits together. It was probably my mistake not going out there and settling her down a little bit after they plated a run and just getting together and saying, OK, instead of doing the, 'She's going to shut them down here.'"

The winner today will play at noon Saturday at Ohio State in a regional final against Gahanna or Lebanon.

Gahanna, which is 26-3, defeated Worthington Kilbourne 4-2 in a district final May 22 and has been riding the strong pitching of Kim Lennox. She has allowed three runs in four games. The Lions also have benefited from the return of catcher Kayla Ledbetter, who had been out for a month before the district tournament started with an injury to her right meniscus. Ledbetter had a two-run single in a four-run sixth inning against Kilbourne and threw out base-runners in the sixth and seventh innings to hinder a Kilbourne comeback. Grove City defeated Gahanna 12-0 in the opener April 1 as Myers allowed three hits and Lennox gave up 15.

Lebanon defeated Cincinnati Colerain 3-2 in a district final last Saturday to improve to 28-2.The Warriors were ranked fourth in the final state poll behind Elyria, Grove City and North Canton Hoover. The Warriors defeated Davidson 14-2 on April 26, five days after Grove City beat Davidson 5-1. They are led by pitcher Chelsea Kaunert, who has a 1.05 ERA. Faith Tessmer leads Lebanon in hitting with a .451 average followed by Alex Machen (.446) and Alex Walter (.424). Jessica Scott (.404) gives the Warriors four players batting better than .400.

The winner of the regional final will play in a state semifinal at 3 p.m. June 6 at Akron Firestone against Brunswick, Eastlake North, Hoover or Hudson.

by Coleman

Courtney Coleman of the Grove City High School softball team swung at a pitch that was low and inside and the ball took flight. A rising cheer turned into a roar as it cleared the fence in right field for a home run to make it 2-1 Grove City in a Division I district final May 21 at Pickerington Central.

The Teays Valley right-fielder doubled over with her hands on her knees and dropped her head. Her team now had one inning to score two runs against pitcher Paige Myers.

Myers hadn't given up an earned run in the postseason.

Coleman rounded the bases. The dugout cleared as players held their hands in the air, relieved of the expectation that had been with them since the first state poll was released, touting Grove City as the second-best team.

After issuing a walk, Myers struck out the last batter to end the game. A few minutes later, Grove City received its second district championship medal in as many years.

"I was a lot more nervous this year than last," said Rachel Fraser, who scored the tying run in the fifth inning. "I think coming in here we knew it was going to be a good game and then coming out in the first few innings, we hadn't come out and we started to get nervous. (People in general) expect us to win. They were figuring it was going to be an easy game, but any team can win."

Not only were the Greyhounds ranked second in the state poll for most of the season, they were awarded the top seed for the district tournament. One of the reasons they played Teays Valley in the district final was because of a game of cat-and-mouse played between fifth-seeded Teays Valley and fourth-seeded Thomas Worthington.

Thomas coach Joe Abraham passed on his choice and tried to set it up so that he would have a second-round game against Teays Valley, which he thought was a favorable matchup for his team, but when Teays Valley placed itself on the same district bracket as Grove City, Thomas didn't follow.

"We were all running away from Paige Myers," Abraham said. "Including us."

But as dominant as Myers had been all season, allowing less than half a run a game, Teays Valley, playing as a Division I team for the first time, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning even though Myers hadn't allowed a hit. The dugout became nervous, Erin Galloway said.

The nerves were stronger than last year's district final when Grove City and Hilliard Davidson took a scoreless tie into the sixth inning. But this year a little piece of advice to Fraser came into play. At times, coach Ted Williams had been using other players to bat for Fraser. He had let her bat more toward the end of the season, and in the district final he allowed her to bat in the fifth inning with the Greyhounds trailing 1-0.

She came through with a double to center. Then Caiti Brown, Grove City's lone senior, hit a ground ball that Teays Valley's second baseman threw over the first baseman's head. Fraser scored.

"I've told her the last six or seven games, I'm putting you in to hit," Williams said. "I don't care if you go 0-for-3 or 3-for-3, I want you hitting the ball hard."

Grove City has played in a district final four times since Williams took over in 2000. Last year's title was Williams' first and Grove City's first since 1998. To get back to a district title game this year the Greyhounds took a first-round bye and then defeated Reynoldsburg 9-0 on May 14 before taking care of Davidson 10-0 in a district semifinal May 19.

"Last year was a little sweeter because it was the first time," Williams said. "We've been to the district final a number of times before that and last year was nice to kind of crack that. I think all our girls expected us to be here (this year). I think it would have been disappointing if we didn't."

Grove City will play Hilliard Darby in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. today at Ohio State.