BATH TOWNSHIP -- When two good pitchers are dueling it out, the defense is usually the decider. That was the case in Wednesday's Division III district semifinal as Ottawa Glandorf's Megan Kitchen threw a one-hitter at Parkway in a 4-1 win. The Lady Titans (19-4) will play Fairview (21-2) in Friday's district final at 5 p.m. Parkway's season ends at 15-6.
O-G junior Kitchen and Parkway senior Sierra Fent engaged in a battle of no-hitters for the first three innings, although Panther fans had an anxious moment in the top of the second. Fent led off with a bouncer to deep short which senior shortstop Stephanie Hempfling backhanded and threw to first for the out. Fent, however, came down awkwardly on the bag, rolled her ankle, and lay on the ground for several minutes. She limped noticeably for the remainder of the game, but was able to continue.
The game was still hitless and scoreless going into the bottom of the fourth, but it changed drastically at that point. Hempfling led off with a walk. Fent then struck out senior left fielder Lindsey Prichard, but plunked Kitchen. Senior catcher Michelle Sdao's grounder to third was bobbled, filling the sacks. Freshman center fielder Emily Annesser bounced back to Fent, who threw home for the force, but then came the game's first -- and biggest -- hit.
Senior second baseman Tasha Cass ripped an opposite-field double to right center, scoring both Kitchen and Sdao. Senior first baseman Katelyn Kaufman's roller to the left side barely eluded Fent's glove for an infield single, plating Annesser. Those three runs would prove to be plenty.
Parkway closed the gap to 3-1 in the top of the fifth. Junior first baseman Kayle Heckler led off with a walk and stole second. After a strikeout, junior third baseman Terra Walls got the Panthers' first hit, a clean single to left that scored Heckler, Walls taking second on the throw. What followed was the defensive play of the game. Junior catcher Zoey Pond hit a fly to shallow left center, but the speedy Annesser got a good jump on it and made a head-long diving catch. Another strikeout ended the Panthers' only threat.
O-G got an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth on singles by Prichard, Kitchen, and Annesser.
During her seven innings of work, Kitchen (now 17-3) gave up one run, earned, on one hit, while striking out four, walking three, and hitting a batter. She threw 87 pitches, of which 45 were strikes. She was backed by some great defense, particularly by shortstop Hempfling and center fielder Annesser.
"You can't say enough about Megan," commented O-G coach Troy Yant. "She kept their best hitters off balance. For not being overpoweringly fast, I thought she did a great job of mixing her pitchers up and keeping them guessing -- and the defense stood behind her and played great. I'm real happy. Hats off to Parkway. We had great respect for them, but I think our team responded very well today."
Panther coach Mark Esselstein agreed with Yant. "The biggest thing in the game was O-G's defense," said Esselstein. "Four or five balls that would normally end up with runners on base, they made plays on and got outs. Their center fielder makes a diving catch. If that falls, it's another run, it's 3-2, and the momentum changes. They earned it."
"She (Kitchen) has good movement on the ball," added Esselstein. "For the most part, we did a good job of laying off pitches that weren't in the zone, but we didn't get her timed up when it was in the strike zone. We were a little bit out on the front foot which led to some of the popups and the grounders that weren't hit real hard, but when we did hit the ball hard, we had nothing to show for it."
Fent yielded four runs, only one of which was earned, on five hits, striking out three, walking one, and plunking three batters. Of her 88 pitches, 59 were strikes. She also had seven assists.
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