Softball: Pickerington Central falls to Watkins Memorial in regional final

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Pickerington Central's Kenzie O'Neil and Ellie Tressler share a laugh and some tears following the Tigers' 13-3 loss to Watkins Memorial in the Division I regional final May 29 at Olentangy Berlin.

The Pickerington Central softball team went toe-to-toe with second-ranked Watkins Memorial for 4 ½ innings in a Division I regional final May 29 using the aggressive approach that brought it to within a win of its first state tournament in 14 years.

“We weren’t changing anything. What we’ve been doing has been working and we stuck with it,” Tigers coach Stephanie Peterson said. “I wasn’t trying to overthink it. Keeping it simple is how we’ve been successful all year.”

Central benefited from a fielder’s choice, two errors and several hard-hit balls to forge a 3-all tie into the fifth, but four Warriors home runs — amid a stiff north wind and temperatures in the mid-40s at Olentangy Berlin — powered Watkins Memorial to a 13-3 win in six innings and the program’s first regional championship.

McKayla Jellison hit her first two homers of the season, Cortney Dobbs added another in a five-run fifth inning that broke the 3-all tie and Alyssa Haynes’ two-run blast to left in the sixth ended the game and sent the 32-1 Warriors into a state semifinal June 3 at Firestone Stadium in Akron against North Ridgeville or Whitehouse Anthony Wayne.

McKayla Jellison, center, is mobbed by her teammates after hitting a home run to give Watkins Memorial a 3-1 lead over Pickerington Central in a Division I softball regional final last Saturday.

“We can play multiple ways. On (May 26 in a regional semifinal win over Lancaster) the wind was blowing in so we bunted seven or eight times,” Warriors coach Mike Jellison said. “Today, the wind was blowing out and we felt like as soon as we got the pitching timed up, we were going to be in good shape. We had to get her squared up and then play for power and play for speed. We just used our power to eventually get the ball into the gap.”

Two hits, a walk and a fielder’s choice in the top of the third pulled the Tigers into a 1-all tie, and after Jellison’s two-run homer to center in the bottom of the inning, Central tied it at 3 in the fourth on a hit and two errors off the bats of Kassidy Stanley and Sara Tailford.

The first four Warriors reached in the sixth. Hannah Hunt singled and Madison Jellison doubled, Dobbs’ double to left made it 11-3 and Haynes’ two-run homer ended the game. Dobbs homered to center in the fifth.

That complemented a strong pitching performance from freshman Carsyn Cassady, who scattered six hits, struck out seven and overcame six walks and a Tori Angles liner off her right arm in the third inning that caromed into left field for a hit.

“For a few innings I couldn’t feel my arm, but I was fine,” Cassady said. “It was hard. You’re in pain … but I feel like this is my game. I own it and can’t come out.”

Central, which upset sixth-ranked Mount Vernon 6-2 in a regional semifinal May 26 at Olentangy Orange, finished 20-8.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave