The Patriots never panicked … but the Wildcats didn’t exactly wither, either.
Down 7-1 early, 13th-seeded Olentangy Liberty clawed back to even by the middle innings, but 26th-seeded Newark responded with a four-run sixth and hung on late to escape with an 11-10 Division I sectional final win Wednesday night in Powell.
The Wildcats flexed their muscles early. After Cere Royster connected on a two-out, two-run homer to break the scoring seal in the first, Brooke Nelson hit a three-run blast in the second before Dez Osler followed it up with a solo shot to balloon the lead to 7-1 later in the inning.
The Patriots didn’t blink, though.
Dani Schoenly, who finished a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, got Liberty on the board with a solo homer in the bottom of the first. The Patriots got two more in the second courtesy of RBI singles by Luci Matteo and Brooke Aberle, three in the third thanks in part to a clutch RBI knock by Tyler Krohn and knotted the score at seven when Matteo chased Schoenly home with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
After the teams traded zeros in the fifth, Newark went up for good with four key runs in the sixth. Paige Simons, who worked a one-out walk, scored on a single by Nelson before Royster singled down the third-base line to bring in Alasandra Spears and Nelson and bump the lead to 10-7.
The Wildcats got one more — a run it turned out they would need — when Chelsea Swonger was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run.
Liberty rallied in the late innings, just like it had earlier, but fell a run short. A two-out single by Lacy Thompson cut the deficit to 11-9, and Allie Jenkins doubled her home later in the inning, but Jenkins was thrown out trying to advance to third to end the sixth.
Patriot ace Lindsey Leeds worked a 1-2-3 seventh to give her team a chance, but Royster returned the favor with a clean inning of her own to complete the upset.
Nelson and Royster led Newark with four RBI apiece while Spears had a team-best three hits, scored three runs and drove in another.
Schoenly had three runs and two RBI to go with her hits, Ashley Chevalier and Matteo had two hits apiece and Thompson and Krohn drove in two to power the Patriots at the plate.
Groveport-Madison 3, Olentangy Berlin 2
The 23rd-seeded Cruisers used a two-run third to take a 3-1 lead they parlayed into a Division I sectional final win over 19th-seeded Olentangy Berlin Wednesday night in Delaware.
Berlin’s Izzie Wilson tripled with one out in the third, and Syd Davis sacrificed her home with a bunt down the third-base line to slice the deficit to 3-2, but it was the last run either team scored the rest of the way.
Wilson finished 2-for-2 and scored both runs for the Bears while Tai Resendes, Kendyll Cahill and Mikala Mullins had two hits each for the Cruisers.
Cahill earned the win in the circle, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out 13 and walking three in seven innings of work.
Kali Batemen suffered the setback for Berlin, giving up three runs on nine hits while striking out four and walking three in her complete-game effort.