By Rob Kiser
It became obvious as the pitching dual between Piqua’s Mariah Blankenship and Wayne’s Kati Brickman reached the fifth inning Wednesday night, someone was going to have deliver a clutch hit.
And it should probably should come as no surprise that Piqua senior shortstop Alyssa “Lou” Jones would be that batter.
Jones double sparked a three-run Piqua fifth inning and that would be all the runs Blankenship needed in a 3-0 Piqua victory in GWOC crossover action.
Piqua, who is 3-3 in GWOC American play, improved to 5-7, while Wayne dropped to 4-6.
“Lou (Alyssa Jones) has been doing that for four years,” Claprood said. “It was a big hit, but not really a surprise that Lou would come up with a big hit like that.”
The inning had started with Allie Popp reaching on an error with one out. She was cut down at second on Lexi Gordon’s fielder’s choice.
That brought up Jones, who hit a shot in the left-center gap to score Gordon from first base.
“That was huge,” Claprood said. “That one run changed everything.”
Hannah Anderson’s fielder’s choice put runners on the corners.
Anderson slowly broke for second on the first pitch, which drew a throw. When Wayne couldn’t handle the throw, Jones raced home on the back end of the double steal.
“We had jog on,” Claprood said. “The runner has to make a decision whether to get in a rundown or decide if they can beat the throw to second. That was a pretty heady play for a freshman (Hannah Anderson). The ball gets away and we score a run.”
Then, Kendra Forness rocketed a single to the outfield to score Anderson and make it 3-0, before Forness was thrown out at second to end the inning.
“Kendra’s first time up, she hit a shot but the first baseman caught it,” Claprood said. “Kendra is very capable of that. We expect that from her.”
Blankenship would go on to pitch a four-hit shutout, striking out three and walking three.
“She did a good job (stranding runners),” Claprood said. “And the defense played well behind her.”
Sam Boyer had singled in the second for Wayne, but Blankenship got two lineouts to end the threat.
In the third, with a runner on second and two out, Blankenship got a ground ball back to her to end the inning.
In the fourth, Blakenship got a big play from third baseman Sarah Marion.
Marissa Philpott and Brinkman had singled to put runners on first and second with one out.
Makalia Foy hit a hard one hooper to Marion — who went back to the bag for the force at third and threw to Anderson at first to complete and inning-ending double play.
“That was a big play,” Claprood said. “The throw to first was a little bit of a lob, but that is OK. We got the out. We expect Sarah (Marion) to make plays like that.”
In the sixth Breanna Musick singled and Philpott walked with one out, but Blankenship got a fly ball to Kami Trissell in left and ground ball to Marion to end the rally.
In the seventh, Ryleigh Crouse reached on an error and Kylee Brenenborg walked with one out.
But, Blankenship snagged a line drive and threw to Anderson at first for a game-ending double play.
“She could have went to first or second for the double play,” Claprood said. “But, it was a nice play. We definitely fielded the ball better tonight.”
The Indians will look to continue the momentum with a game at Bellefontaine tonight, before hosting Stebbins Friday — after a clutch hit, with strong pitching and defense proved to be a winning combination Wednesday.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.