Senior Alex Thomas’ RBI single in the first ended up being the only run she needed. She tossed a six-hit shutout in Big Walnut’s 5-0 win over Bexley in the second round of the Division II Central District softball tournament Thursday in Sunbury.
Alex Thomas, Alexyss Bullock and Katie Neff each had two hits and a RBI to lead fourth-seeded BW to its first tournament win since its district title run in 2014.
The win was the 15th in the last 17 games for BW (16-7), which lost five of its first six games.
“The games we’ve struggled are the games where we’ve given up an early run,” Golden Eagles coach Jeff Hatfield said. “Honestly, it’s a momentum game – whoever jumps on first.”
And this time it was BW that jumped on the scoreboard first. Meredith Thomas worked a two-out walk in the first inning, stole second and came home on Alex Thomas’ single to give the Golden Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Alex Thomas held seventh-seeded Bexley (17-10) to one hit through the first three innings, retiring nine of the first 10 batters she faced over that stretch.
“When she hits her spots – she’s not going to overpower you – but, when she’s on her game, she’s hard to hit,” Hatfield said.
Sydney McGlinchey, who led the Lions with two hits, doubled with one out in the second.
The Eagles added three runs in the third on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice RBI by Jocelyn Lucas and RBI singles by Meredith Thomas and Bullock.
Alex Thomas worked around singles by Grace Hunley, McGlinchey and Renata Russo to load the bases in the Bexley fourth.
Kaia Woodford and Lauren Woodford hit a double and a single, respectively, and ended up at second and third with one out in the fifth.
“I just kept going back to what I’ve needed to work on … staying down, working on my spin and making sure I’m hitting my spots,” Alex Thomas said.
Alex Thomas got a strikeout and a groundout to keep the shutout. An error in the sixth allowed the only runner to reach over the final two frames. She finished with five strikeouts.
Lauren Woodford went the distance for Bexley, but was saddled with the loss.
BW advances to the district semifinal against sixth-seeded Bloom-Carrol/14th-seeded Licking Valley Tuesday at 5 p.m. at a neutral site to be announced.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.