PREP SOFTBALL: Northridge slugs their way to Sectional 4 title over Concord

·5 min read

May 28—WARSAW — Abby Hostetler is known for her pitching. It was her hitting, though, that arguably made the biggest difference in Saturday's sectional final against Concord.

The Northridge senior stepped up in the bottom of the fifth inning, delivering a clutch three-RBI double to turn a 6-1 Raider lead into a 9-1 advantage.

This opened the floodgates for the Northridge offense, as they added five more runs in the sixth inning — allowing just three more in the process — to win 14-4 (6 innings) over the Minutemen in the Class 4A, Sectional 4 softball championship game Saturday at Warsaw High School.

"That was critical because it was a late night and an early morning," said Northridge coach Ray Caples of Hostetler's double. "You could see as the innings wore on that she was getting a little tired and a little off in her command, so getting that double and spiking those runs put us in a place where she could relax a little bit more and feel comfortable that we had it a little bit more in hand."

Both Northridge and Concord played sectional semifinal games Friday evening at Warsaw, with the Raiders not finishing their game until around 8:45 p.m. Saturday's title game started at 11 a.m.

It's the third-straight sectional title for Northridge. They won titles in 2019 and 2021 as well, with the 2020 season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have a solid group of seniors that really came together starting as freshmen and sophomores, working their way through and continuing to step up over and over and over again," Caples said. "It's awesome."

Northridge, who was the designated visiting team Saturday, scored first on an RBI double from Jenna Bible in the top of the first inning, driving in Ava Gilbert.

Concord then responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the frame. With runners on second and third base and one out, Hostetler was able to strike out Concord junior Kareen Ulfig. The pitch would get away from Raider catcher Tavia Bratt, however, which allowed Ulfig to reach safely at first base and Jazmin Flores to score for the Minutemen.

Hostetler then struck out the next two batters she faced to keep the game tied after one inning of play.

Northridge scored three runs in the second inning. A Concord fielding error allowed Jayln Weatherholt to score to make it a 2-1 contest at the time. A Rielyn Goodwin groundout then plated Grace Urbanski to double the Raiders lead. The final run of the frame for Northridge came off an RBI single from Grace Lueking, scoring Hostetler.

After a scoreless third inning, Urbanski cranked a solo home run to centerfield in the top of the fourth to make it 5-1 Raiders.

A slew of walks in thee fifth inning is what started the late Northridge offensive onslaught. Bible and Bratt both drew walks, followed by a single from Meredith Frey to load the bases with one out. That would be the last batter Ulfig faced, as the Concord hurler was replaced by Lynnsey Delio after 4 1/3 innings pitched.

"We felt like Kareena could keep them off-balance a little bit more because of the changeup and the screwball that she throws," Concord coach Brent Bardo said. "And she did pretty well for the first few innings, but then they started timing her up, so we thought it'd be time for a (pitching) change."

Delio struggled out of the gate as well, walking Weatherholt to allow Bible to score. After a foul out from Urbanski made it two outs in the frame, Hostetler broke open the game with her three-RBI double.

Concord responded with two runs in the bottom of the fifth without tallying a hit. Taylor Reames scored on an error from Bratt, with Flores then scoring on a wild pitch from Hostetler.

The Raiders' offense couldn't be stopped in the sixth inning, as the first seven batters all reached base. Five of them came around to score, with Lueking, Gilbert, Bible, Bratt and Frey all crossing home plate to make it a 14-3 game, bringing the run-rule into play.

The Minutemen didn't go down without a fight, scoring a run in the bottom of the sixth before Hostetler finished the game with a strikeout and inducing a pop out to end the contest in six innings.

"Our girls didn't quit," Bardo said. "They competed the whole ballgame, and that's what I'm happy about."

Concord finishes the season with a 15-13 record. They graduate six seniors from the roster, which includes Delio, the team's leader in batting average (.500) and innings pitched (112 2/3rds).

Northridge (20-9) will now prepare to face a familiar foe in the one-game regional in Penn. The Kingsmen were a 10-0 winner over South Bend Riley in their sectional title game Friday night, winning their eighth-straight sectional crown in the process.

Penn has ended Northridge's season in the last two seasons played, winning 15-1 in 2019 and 5-3 last year. The Kingsmen (21-9) beat the Raiders, 2-1, on April 12 of this season.

The game will be played Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Northridge High School. The winner will advance to the two-game semistate Lafayette Harrison High School Saturday, June 4.

"Bats," said Caples will be the key for his team in beating Penn Tuesday. "I think, defensively, we are equal, if not better. In the circle, I think we're better. It's just going to take our bats. If our bats come and we hit the ball, we win that game on Tuesday."

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.