The first inning of the Licking Valley High School softball team's 2-1 victory over Caledonia River Valley in a Division II district final May 19 at Pickerington Central seemed to be an odd beginning given the pitching battle the game would become.

The first inning of the Licking Valley High School softball team's 2-1 victory over Caledonia River Valley in a Division II district final May 19 at Pickerington Central seemed to be an odd beginning given the pitching battle the game would become.

Kori Caughenbaugh, one of five freshmen who start for the third-seeded Panthers, hit a two-run home run as the game's second batter to give her team a lead it would not relinquish.

"I never thought this would be a 2-1 game coming in," coach Mark Paxton said.

Caughenbaugh, who admitted she wasn't having the best postseason, came to the plate with Sierra McConnell on base after reaching on an error.

Caughenbaugh's home run over the fence in center field was one of six hit during eight district finals played that day at Central. The most dramatic was the one Central Crossing's Savannah Dorsey hit with two runners on in the bottom of the eighth to lift her team past Olentangy Orange 4-1 in a Division I final.

"I just wanted to go up there and make something happen," Caughenbaugh said. "It seemed to pump everybody up and got us going."

Well, not quite.

The Panthers, who had scored 21 combined runs in their first two tournament wins, managed just three more hits off Courtney Rengert and had only one after the third inning as Rengert retired 12 consecutive batters at one point. Licking Valley senior pitcher Kindle Crossley allowed just five hits, however, including a home run in the bottom of the fourth. Second-seeded River Valley, which scored 19 runs in its first two postseason games, finished 23-3.

"She was hitting her spots all day," Caughenbaugh, the team's catcher, said of Crossley.

The Panthers, who captured their second district title in four years, improved to 22-5 and advanced to play Lima Shawnee in a regional semifinal May 24 at Bucyrus, with the final to follow May 26. The state tournament is Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, in Akron.

Newark Catholic was Licking County's other district finalist, losing 6-0 to second-seeded Danville in a Division IV final May 19 at Central. The top-seeded Green Wave finished 18-11.

•BASEBALL -- Newark Catholic was 27-8 before playing undefeated Racine Southern in a Division IV regional semifinal May 24, with the final to follow on May 25.

The state tournament is Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at Huntington Park in Columbus.

•MORE BASEBALL -- The Licking County Athletics summer team, which features players from various area high schools, opens its season by playing Team Columbus at 6:15 p.m. Friday, June 1, at Don Edwards Park in Newark.