The long ball usually trumps small ball, but the Northmont softball team was able to buck the trend Monday afternoon in a Division I sectional final at Fairmont High School.
Bolts pitcher Jordan Stoltz surrendered three home runs for the first time at any level, but she allowed the Cougars little else while the Northmont offense converted 12 hits — 11 of which were singles — into a 6-4 victory for the program’s fourth consecutive sectional championship.
The win moves the Thunderbolts (23-3) into the district finals — where their season has ended each of the last three years — against Seton at 5 p.m. Friday at Fairfield.
“In years past we have not been the best hitting team,” Northmont coach Kris Mangen said. “But this year, 1 through 9, everyone is putting their bat on the ball, whether it’s a blooper or a solid hit.”
Senior Kassi Crawford led off the game with a triple, but that would end up being the ‘Bolts’ only extra-base hit of the game. Four of their 11 singles came via bunts, and they also had two sacrifice bunts and a successful suicide squeeze.
“I’ll take the long ball over small ball any day, but they can beat you any way they want,” said Edgewood coach Wayne Asher, whose team finished with a school-record number of victories in a 22-5 campaign.
“They beat us with small ball because they chose to,” Asher added. “If they wanted to slug with us, they could slug with us.”
EHS sophomore Amber Watson and senior Brittany Banks hit home runs on back-to-back pitches in the fourth inning to cut the Northmont lead to 3-2. Then Banks added a two-run shot in the sixth — her school-record 11th of the year — to get the Cougars within 6-4, but Stoltz made the lead stand up to improve to 21-3.
“The home runs didn’t bother me,” said Stoltz, who allowed six hits while striking out four and walking one. “It actually made me want to work harder and it pushed me to get better every inning.”
Stoltz added a pair of singles and an RBI, while Crawford finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored to help the senior class stay undefeated in four years of sectional play.
“Playing a good team like that and having a quality win, it’s still exciting for all of us,” Crawford said. “I know I was still nervous up until the last inning.”
Seniors Kelly Wood (2-for-4) and Chey Rowe (2-for-3, run scored) also had multi-hit games, and senior Kate Pfeffer officially was 0-for-0 with two sacrifice bunts, a walk, an RBI and a run to get Northmont back to the district finals.
“It would mean the world to win one,” Stoltz said. “They haven’t done it since the ’90s. It will be a pretty big game for us. Once we get past that, it will be a straight road from there.”
Jay Morrison has been covering the southwest Ohio prep sports scene for 20 years. You can count on more great local sports coverage in the Dayton Daily News as the spring postseason tournaments progress.