PICKERINGTON — Defeating higher seeds and setting school records are just two things the Delaware Christian softball team has done well in the Division IV Central District tournament, and they didn’t stop Thursday.
The Eagles, who won their way to the district for the first time with a come-from-behind win over top-seeded Millersport, played near flawless defense, hit the ball into holes, capitalized on Grove City Christian errors and received solid pitching from freshman right-hander Ava Heidorn for a lopsided 14-0, five-inning win in a Division IV district semifinal at Pickerington Central High School.
“The girls are earning some respect,” Delaware Christian coach Matt Heidorn said. “They’ve been working like crazy, and I think, honestly, yesterday was a blessing getting that rain day. They’ve been working hard in the batting cage and today, it paid off.”
“It’s a great feeling, especially with myself and my friend being freshmen,” pitcher Ava Heidorn said. “We’re really trying to bring up the softball program, make it special and make it an important sport at the school.”
Delaware Christian, which won its first two tournament games in school history this spring, will now face No. 2 seeded Berne Union, a 3-1 winner over Ridgedale, for a district title at 10 a.m. Saturday at Pickerington Central.
“Saturday is going to be a challenge,” coach Heidorn said. “Berne Union is a solid team and I voted them second in the division. They’re a premier team, and we’re going to have to play our best game if we want to go to the regionals.”
The Eagles were solid in all three phases of the game. Delaware Christian had 13 hits, two for extra bases, and received production on offense from one through nine, with all but one player recording at least one hit off two Grove City Christian pitchers.
“We just erupted,” coach Heidorn said. “We had a little bit of nervousness from a couple of girls, but it just opened up in the third inning and they didn’t take their feet off the gas. We did what we needed to do to get on base. We got them on and the bottom of the order delivered for us today.”
In the circle, Ava Heidorn was strong all the way through, allowing just two hits, two walks and a hit batsman while striking out four in five innings for the victory. Heidorn threw just 71 pitches, 48 for strikes, and was precise and confident around the plate.
“I’m seeing my pitching coach (local coach Tony Eyerman) whenever I can,” Ava Heidorn said. “He’s always making little touch-ups and making sure everything is perfect for the game.”
“Ava’s been solid,” coach Heidorn said. “The other day when we got down early, we were a little nervous, but she’s shut out the competition since then. She’s not allowed a run since the second inning of the last game. She shut down Millersport and today we didn’t panic and the defense made every play.”
The Eagles threatened in the first, loading the bases with two out, but could not score, then went up and down on three strikeouts in the second, but that hard luck at the plate would not last long.
Delaware Christian blew the scoreless game open with seven runs in the third. Junior second baseman Natalie Plotner led off the inning with a walk, but was retired on a fielder’s choice by junior shortstop Emily Cornelius. Heidorn followed with a single up the middle, senior third baseman Kayla Zimmerman walked to load the bases, and senior left fielder Katie Morgan was hit by a pitch, forcing in Cornelius from third.
Freshman first baseman Madi Morgan hit a topped ground ball to the pitcher, but Heidorn beat the throw home on the infield single. Sophomore center fielder Brianna Kuykendall then singled up the middle to score Zimmerman, and when Grove City Christian pitcher Grace Tomlinson’s throw to third attempting to catch Katie Morgan off the bag went over her fielder’s head and out of play, both Morgan sisters scored on the error.
Senior catcher Carmon Weldi hit a grounder to third, but the throw from Grove City’s Olivia Frank flew over the first baseman’s head, sending Weldi to second on the error and scoring Kuykendall from third. One out later, Plotner singled to left to score Weldi from second.
The Eagles added four more in the fourth on an RBI groundout by Madi Morgan that scored Heidorn, a throwing error on the Grove City catcher that allowed Zimmerman to score, and RBI singles by Weldi and senior right fielder Bethany Kuykendall that sent both Brianna Kuykendall and Weldi home. Delaware Christian finished off their offense with three more in the fifth on a two-run triple by Heidorn and an RBI double by Zimmerman.