By Ben Robinson
FORT LORAMIE — Covington coach Dean Denlinger didn’t recognize the team on the field in the first three innings of the sectional final against Russia at Fort Loramie High School on Tuesday. Yes, his kids were wearing band spanking new black and white uniforms, but the team wearing those uniforms looked like anything other than a Covington softball team.
That’s because Covington made mistake after mistake in the circle and in the field – spotting Russia a 3-1 lead on just one hit (a bunt) through two-and-one-half innings of play.
“That was a bad start to a game,” said Denlinger. “There’s no sugar coating it. We played horrible the first three of innings.”
It started with the opening batter as Russia’s Lexie Monnin drew a walk and then was sacrificed to second. With one out, Monnin scored all the way from second on a passed ball.
Covington tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the second as Ashley Cecil drew a walk and Arianna Richards singled to move her to third. Brooke Gostomsky then scored Cecil on a sacrifice.
Both teams left runners stranded in the second, but Russia once again took advantage of Covington mistakes in the third. Thanks to a walk, a hit batter and two errors by Covington, Russia plated two runs to take a 3-1 lead and still had runners on second and third with two outs.
But Covington was able to get out of the jam thanks to a diving catch by Ashley Cecil on a line drive hit to left field.
“That catch by Cecil was huge,” said Denlinger. “If that ball drops it’s five to one them.”
The catch – and a tongue lashing by Denlinger — seemed to spark Covington in the bottom of the third as it plated five runs in the inning with the big hit coming on a three-run home run by Lexie Long.
“We came out and hit the ball hard in the third,” Denlinger said. “Even the outs, we hit the ball hard.”
Leading 6-3, Covington settled down on defense and showcased the style of softball a Dean Denlinger coached team is known for. Diving catches by Lexie Long at third and Arianna Richards on a foul ball behind the plate and an amazing diving stop by shortstop Sarah Hubbard to prevent a hit for extra bases highlighted the effort.
“The last four innings we looked like Covington,” said Denlinger. “Brooke threw well and our defense made plays behind her.”
Covington padded its cushion in the bottom of the fourth as Justice Warner connected on a two-run base hit in the gap with two outs.
The Lady Buccs then put the game away in the bottom of the fifth as sophomore Emma Dammeyer drilled a towering three-run home run to dead center field.
“We talk to the kids all of the time about refusing to lose,” Denlinger said. “It wasn’t our normal defensive effort, especially in the first few innings, but the girls refused to lose.”
Brooke Gostomsky picked up the win for Covington as she went the distance in the circle. She struck out five, allowed four hits, four walks and hit one batter.
Ashley Cecil, Arianna Richards and Emma Dammeyer all had two hits a piece for Covington with Dammeyer hitting a three-run home run, Cecil driving in two runs on a double and Richards driving in a run.
Lexie Long had a three-run home run, while Justice Warner drove in two runs on a single. Kara Schaffer and Allison Babylon also had hits for Covington.
The win improves Covington’s record to 24-3 on the season as it advances to the District Final on Saturday at Eaton High School. The game will be played at noon against Georgetown.