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Cards carry on

Bloomfield makes school history with tourney win

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Bloomfield ace Ruthie Kaiser fires a pitch during the Cardinals’ 11-6 tournament victory over Leetonia. Kaiser struck out 10.

LEETONIA — Going into Monday’s first-round sectional tournament game against Leetonia, Bloomfield softball had a chance to make history.

If the Cardinals boarded the bus after the game with a win, they would not only set a program high in wins in a season, it would also mark the first time in program history the Cardinals won a postseason game.

After plenty of offensive drills in the leadup to the game, the Bloomfield offense powered through, taking down the Bears, 11-6, to make history for the program.

The Cardinals are 7-8 on the season, besting the six-win season from 2019. Bloomfield faces Northeastern Athletic Conference rival Badger on Wednesday in a sectional bracket final following the Cardinals’ first tournament win ever.

“We went in to play today,” Cardinals coach Amanda Ihrig said. “We have been working endlessly on batting. We’ve been doing drills. Hours of drills, just batting, batting, batting and today it paid off. They were roping it in. It was good. It was good to see because even a lot of our underclassmen were up there hitting and making good contact with the ball. I feel good. This was a good game. I’m so proud of them.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Cardinals right fielder Kyla Shaffer watches the ball fly before racing home to score off a triple by Olivia Foster

The road to this point wasn’t easy however. Ihrig said the team has clawed for every inch they’ve progressed as a team.

“It feels surreal, but we have worked so hard,” Ihrig said. “Our girls, they come to practice. If a game’s canceled, we’re practicing, we’re practicing hard and hard work pays off. I mean it feels amazing. I am so proud of them.”

Three Cardinals registered multiple hits with Olivia Foster and Haley Root each getting three hits and Paige Haskins tallying two. Foster finished the game with four RBIs.

Bloomfield received 11 free bases in the form of five walks and six batters hit by pitches.

In the circle for the Cardinals was senior Ruthie Kaiser, who recorded 10 strikeouts on the afternoon and scored the team’s 10th run in the top of the seventh inning.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Cardinals pitcher Ruthie Kaiser runs home to score the team’s 10th run of the afternoon in the program’s first postseason victory.

“I’m definitely really proud of it,” Kaiser said. “I’m just really proud of how far we’ve come from before.”

Everything was looking up in 2019 for Bloomfield, which finished with six wins that year. With Kaiser, then a sophomore, on the mound and multiple young players impressing, the plan was to continue to improve on that over the next two years.

After no season in 2020, there’s a feeling of vindication in the Cardinals’ dugout, that the hard work they’ve put in over the last couple of years is paying off.

“I’m so excited because our team has worked so hard for this and we put in all the practice and everything to get to this point in our lives,” Root said. “I’m just so proud of each and every one of our players on this team.”

“Everybody here has tried their hardest, even the younger kids. They are putting in the work, they’re putting in the effort and so are our seniors. We’re just doing amazing and I’m proud of everybody.”

The Cardinals and Badger have met already this season with the Braves winning 8-0. Bloomfield is taking the positives from the first meeting and is hopeful they can keep the season going.

“We want to keep going, we don’t want to end it there,” Ihrig said. “Last time we played Badger it was 0-0 in the fifth, they had one good inning on us. We have the ability to go out there and win for sure on Wednesday and I’m ready to do it. We lost the season last year, so the longer we can extend this one, the better for us.”

If they can keep the energy up, like they did against Leetonia, the Cardinals are hopeful they can live to play another day.

“We need to keep our momentum going,” Root said. “We need to keep our mentality straight and we just need to stay pumped because we were today. We were pumped before we came and we brought this one in.”

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