It definitely was not as easy as the first two meetings.
But the Monroeville softball team did enough in the first five innings on Friday against St. Paul to advance.
The Eagles scored the first seven runs — then fended off St. Paul, 8-5, in a Division IV sectional title game at Clark Park.
"It’s tough to beat a team three times," Monroeville coach Abe Helmstetter said. "They know us real well. It took us a while to adjust to their pitcher. I thought we did a nice job of that."
With the win, top-seeded Monroeville improved to 20-3 overall and advances to face No. 4 Mohawk (17-9) in Tuesday's district semifinal at Shelby High School at 4:30 p.m.
"I don’t think we are going to have dominant, dominant pitching games," Helmstetter said. "At this time of the year, everybody has seen a lot of pitches. Everybody has adjusted their hitting."
The Eagles raced out to a 7-0 lead after a big fifth inning, but the Flyers (9-15) responded in the top of the sixth inning. Presley Stang singled and stole second, then Kennedy Stang roped a run-scoring double. Marliana Sowers then reached on an error and Amelia Rospert's bunt went unfielded, bringing in Kennedy Stang.
Then, Brooke Houck unloaded a two-run double into left field to score two more runs. Houck went to third on the throw home and later scored on a wild pitch.
Monroeville got a run back in the bottom half of the frame. Jessica Hayes walked and went to second on a groundout. Hayes then came around to score when Callie Rosser singled.
Eagles' pitcher Carley Helmstetter had to battle until the very end. Kennedy Stang walked and Sowers singled for another threat in the seventh inning. The two executed a double steal to further the threat, but Helmstetter recorded her 11th strikeout and induced a groundout to escape with the win.
"We worked very hard last night on Carley's speed in the cage," St. Paul coach Bob Wilhelm said. "I think that paid off. We hit the ball well. She is the premier pitcher in the conference, obviously."
Monroeville nearly ended the game with a huge fifth inning. Payton Scheid reached on an error and Helmstetter walked before Skilier Hershiser ripped a single up the middle for a run. Rosser's groundout brought in courtesy runner Hannah Lyons for a 3-0 lead.
Sydney Meisler then reached on an error to score pinch runner Emily Kradlak. After Adelynn Kradlak walked, she stole second and went to third on a wild pitch, which brought in Meisler. Lydia Landoll then laid down a bunt that was thrown off line to first, scoring Adelynn Kradlak to score. Alex Carper followed with a RBI single for a 7-0 lead. Carper advanced to second on the throw, but was caught in a rundown after Scheid registered an infield single, ending the inning.
Early on, it looked like a single run that the Eagles pushed across in the third inning may be enough. Scheid reached on an error and stole second before Hayes' single got Monroeville on the board.
Helmstetter had to work around some trouble in the first inning. Presley Stang singled before Kennedy Stang and Sowers each walked. Wilhelm opted to bunt Rospert, but Monroeville got the force out at home.
"Amelia laid down a great bunt," Wilhelm said. "The girl at third should have scored easily. She did not know the situation. It happens."
Helmstetter then struck out Houck to end the inning.
"They were fired up and we had to weather that storm," coach Helmstetter said. "I expected that. St. Paul is getting better. They are working real hard. I knew it was going to be a battle."
Helmstetter settled in from there until the sixth inning. She retired 14 out if 15 batters after the two walks in the first inning. The only hit she allowed was a one-out single to Sammy Lippert in the fifth.
Rospert allowed eight runs on 10 hits and four walks. She struck out three and threw 127 pitches.
'We got Amelia back pitching and she did a phenomenal job," Wilhelm said. "Monroeville had not seen her, since she was hurt both games we played earlier in the season. She did a great job. It was 1-0 through four innings."
Monroeville topped St. Paul, 6-0 on April 8 and 6-1 on April 9.
"In the sixth inning, I felt like we tightened up defensively," coach Helmstetter said. "That was surprising because we were up seven runs. You either do something or you don't. Being aggressive puts the pressure on them."
The matchup with Mohawk is the third in a row for the Eagles. Mohawk won each of the last two years.
"We have to be composed and strong in the circle," coach Helmstetter said. "We have to be strong and we have to work on the basics. It is the little things and that is what matters at this time of the year."
St. Paul 000 005 0 — 5 8 5
Monroeville 001 061 x — 8 10 1
WP: Helmstetter. LP: Rospert
2B: (SP) K. Stang, Houck