Two teams closing out their regular seasons vying for Firelands Conference supremacy in winner-take-all fashion met on Thursday at Clark Park. The matchup didn’t disappoint, as visiting Crestview plated a run in the top of the seventh inning to edge host Monroeville to win the FC title outright.
The Cougars close their season at 21-3 overall and 13-1 in the FC. The Eagles fell to 21-4 (12-2). Monroeville won at Crestview, 8-3, on May 1, but had lost the week before in a walk-off loss at Plymouth for a second league loss.
With Thursday’s game knotted at 1-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning, Crestview’s Alyssa Derr was on second base when Natalie Restille found herself battling Monroeville’s ace pitcher Carley Helmstetter.
She had already doubled twice and drove in Crestview’s only run back in the fifth inning. After drawing a full count against Helmstetter, Restille took the eighth pitch in the count for a little bloop single for the game-winning RBI.
It was as tense of a matchup as one will see in high school softball. With first base open, Monroeville coach Abe Helmstetter was tasked with the decision of walking the Cougars hottest bat or having Carley Helmstetter face her again. In the end, he decided to put pitch to Restille, but this time the Eagles came out on the wrong end of a disputed strike three call and Restille capped her day by going 3 for 4 to go along with the pair of doubles and RBIs.
“I don’t want to criticize the officiating, but that was strike three all day,” Abe Helmstetter said. “Instead it was called a ball and then a pitch later she blooped in a run. Sure, I thought about it (walking Restille) given hindsight," Helmstetter said. "But that was strike three and we are out of the inning.
"Credit Crestview, they were the better team tonight," he added. "I’m not trying to make excuses, we didn’t do enough on offense tonight. It’s up to them inside the white lines. We can’t do it for them. They have to go out and play their game and I thought we were anxious at the plate tonight."
Helmstetter spread two runs over five hits and struck out six with a pair of walks in her 118-pitch outing. Kylie Ringler matched Helmstetter in the pitcher’s dual with a dominant performance of her own. She was credited with the complete-game win and had nine strikeouts. She allowed three hits, a run and walked a Monroeville batter.
Helmstetter helped her own cause in the first inning when she knocked in Alex Carper on an RBI double in the first inning. Carper reached base on a single and was advanced to second base thanks to a perfectly laid sacrifice bunt by Payton Scheid, before advancing to third on a passed ball. Sydney Meisler later got the only other hit for the Eagles as they struggled solving Ringler.
Monroeville will play Lucas at 5:30 p.m. today in a Division IV district championship game matchup. It will be the first-ever district title game for the Eagles, who were seeking their second-ever FC title (2014).
"It's up to them,” Abe Helmstetter said. "If they let the nerves get to them and they let the emotions of this game affect them, it will be tough to win. If they come out and play like they are capable of playing we will do fine.”
Crestview 000 010 1 — 2 5 1
Monroeville 100 000 0 — 1 3 2
WP: Ringler; LP: Helmstetter
2B: (C) Restille 2; (M) Helmstetter.