McDonald gets even, defeats Bristol this time

BAZETTA — A year ago, McDonald was unable to manage a run against Bristol in a Division IV Warren District softball semifinal.

However, in Monday’s district semifinal rematch at Candlelite Knolls, the Blue Devils made sure history didn’t repeat itself, as they knocked off the Panthers, 8-4, to advance to today’s district title game against Mathews.

“We’ve been talking about it not only all week, but all year,” McDonald coach Tom Senich said. “We’ve been a great offensive team and we knew that we needed to come through in the big moment. We did today against a good team, Bristol. The bats came when we needed them the most.”

McDonald (17-1) scored two runs in the first inning. Megan Ward led off the inning with a single, before starting pitcher Cheyenne Titus drew a walk. Kendra Kelly drove a double to the left field fence off of Bristol starter Alayna Sines, bringing in Ward to get on the board first.

Two batters later, Hannah Donkers had the first of her game-high three hits, as her hard grounder past Sines brought home Titus, extending the lead to 2-0. In the bottom of the third, Katie Donkers’ grounder to short forced the Panthers to go for the fielder’s choice at third base, bringing in Rachel Ward from third to give the Blue Devils a 3-0 advantage.

For Bristol (15-2), who entered the game on a 14-game winning streak, the bottom half of the fourth inning proved to be especially costly. The Panthers brought in Kendyl Switzer to pitch, and after two quick outs, things went haywire.

A dropped ball in right field scored Titus from first, while a Rachel Ward single up the middle brought in Kelly. Finally, a dropped pop-up at second base brought Ward home from third, making it a 6-0 game as Bristol committed two errors, a wild pitch and allowed three unearned runs with two outs.

As for McDonald, Titus continued to cruise on the mound, as she struck out 12 batters in the game, and had allowed just three hits through the first five frames. In the sixth inning, however, Bristol got new life.

Autumn Miller had a lead-off single to the right field gap, which was soon followed by a missed tag at second base on a Kendyl Switzer groundball. Kayla Switzer blasted a double to the left field fence to get her team on the board.

Back-to-back fielder’s choices, which resulted in all runners reaching safely on both occasions, ultimately led to another Panther run, while loading up the bases, in the process.

Lexi Swiger’s grounder to Titus forced the out at home, but then a bad throw to first scored Sines, before Swiger attempted to get to second base. Swiger was tagged out at second, but not before Hailee Elza scored another Panther run to cut the deficit to 6-4.

“I think it was just the switch of the pitcher,” Bristol coach Emily Woodford said. “Kendyl’s got a lot of confidence, she’s not a sophomore in her mind. I think that really turned things around for them — she got everybody up on the bench. She really rallied us, and then Autumn got us going on that first run.”

McDonald, however, would not be denied, as the Blue Devils quickly turned around and added two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Titus then forced a 1-2-3 seventh to clinch the win.

The No. 2-seeded Blue Devils will now take on No. 1 Mathews in today’s title game at Candlelite Knolls. McDonald will go up against a Mustang team that’s proven to be pretty potent offensively and defensively, as well.

Needless to say, Senich isn’t taking them lightly.

“I know they’re a tough team, really well-coached. We’ve played them in years past, we’ve had a couple good games against them,” he said. “They hit the ball, I saw them play against Windham, they put up 17 runs. It’s going to be a challenge, we gotta play well and hit like we did today and hopefully come out on top.”