Delaware softball coach Mark Thomas listens to his assistants. So, when Dave Morgan suggested pinch-hitting Liaiha Slayton in the sixth inning of the Pacers’ Division I district tournament second-round game at Olentangy, Thomas obliged.
And Slayton …well, she came through with a two-run home run in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie and Delaware cruised to a 6-1 win Wednesday in Lewis Center.
“Coach Morgan said, ‘Hey, let’s give Slayton a shot’ and Slayton gave us the shot with the home run … so, great call by Coach Morgan,” Thomas said.
Slayton’s big hit backed a complete game from freshman pitcher Haley Osborne to give Delaware its fifth straight trip to the Division I district semifinal round.
Olentangy got a Morgan Cox double and a two-out RBI single by Kristen Bartel in the first inning to tie the game.
But, Osborne settled in. She retired 11 batters in a row from the second inning through the end of the fifth to keep the game tied.
“Osborne was focused today,” Thomas said. “Bobbi called great pitches … Ozzy kept them off-balance.”
Mallory Stonebraker worked a leadoff walk and after a fielder’s choice groundout and a flyout, Slayton connected with a 2-2 pitch and lined it over the left field wall to put 18th-seeded Delaware (14-7) ahead to stay.
Osborne gave up a hit to Morgan Cox to open the sixth and Payton Cox reached on an error with one out.
“They’re really poised and they don’t give up,” Olentangy coach Alan Tharpe said. “We fought all the way to the end.”
But, Osborne came back with a strikeout before snaring a comebacker to end the threat.
Overall, Osborne allowed five hits and struck out seven to get the win.
“We hit the ball … it was just right at them. They played good (defense), they didn’t make mistakes,” Tharpe said. “That’s what’s made us good all year – we don’t make mistakes.”
Amaia Daniel, who led the Pacers with two hits and two runs, doubled home a run in the seventh and a second run scored on an error. Stonebraker finished out the scoring with a RBI groundout.
Daniel worked a one-out walk in the first inning and scored on a Bobbi Adams double to give Delaware an early 1-0 lead.
“(Daniel) is a competitor … I don’t really say too much to her because she knows already what I’m going to say,” Thomas said. “She’s a heck of a ballplayer.”
Sophie Low held Delaware to a run over the first five innings, but was saddled with the loss. She allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over six-plus innings with three strikeouts.
“Sometimes she’ll miss her spots, but for the most part she still was on her mark,” Tharpe said. “You get a pinch-hitter to come in and hit a home run – that just hurt us. That was a big play in the game … that hurt.”
Low and Morgan Cox had two hits apiece to lead 18th-seeded Olentangy (13-10-1).
“Coach Tharpe has a nice team … better than a 17-seed,” Thomas said. “I give Olentangy props – they came out, they played hard and they played well.”
Tharpe thought the same thing about Delaware.
“That ain’t a (17-seed) team,” he said. “That was a tough matchup for a sectional.”
Next up, Olentangy visits rival Olentangy Orange to wrap up the OCC-Buckeye Thursday at 5:15 p.m. in a game that was rescheduled from May 1.
Delaware will play third-seeded Teays Valley in the district semifinal Monday at 5 p.m. at a neutral site to be determined.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.