New Bloomfield wasn't going to be beaten by Montgomery County's pitches Wednesday night.
Sophomore Peityn Thomas outdueled Montgomery County flamethrower Brooklynn Fischer in the semifinals of the Class 2 District 3 Tournament taking place in Mokane and manufactured enough runs to win 5-1 and advance to the final against Salisbury today.
Head coach Dara Reinkemeyer said, considering the games were moved to South Callaway early in the day from Harrisburg because of wet conditions and then delayed to lead to New Bloomfield's game starting not until 8 p.m., the No. 2 Lady Wildcats showed much energy and focus to execute their approach against the arm that produced 14 strikeouts the day before in No. 3 Montgomery County's 6-1 win against No. 6 Harrisburg.
"We went in with the mindset we were going to make her throw to us instead of us chasing her pitches," Reinkemeyer said. "I feel the girls took a much more disciplined approach in their at-bats."
Fischer allowed only three hits, but that didn't matter as she struggled to find her command in the first inning, walking the first two New Bloomfield hitters. New Bloomfield didn't draw any more walks the rest of the game, but those were costly enough for Montgomery County as senior Asya Nichols made contact to bring the first run home on a groundout. Nichols eventually scored the winning run on a passed ball.
Reinkemeyer said the early lead then put the game in the hands of New Bloomfield's pitching and defense. The Lady Wildcats played sparkling defense, whenever Thomas wasn't striking out eager Montgomery County hitters. Thomas finished with 13 strikeouts — a season-high by far as her previous one was seven three different times — and allowed four hits, four walks and one earned run.
Montgomery County seemed to do the opposite of what New Bloomfield was doing and chased pitches low and high. Reinkemeyer said Thomas did a good job touching every part of the zone to keep the batters off balance.
"She moved the ball around very well tonight," Reinkemeyer said. "The balls they did hit, she produced outs with the pitches by hitting her spots and the defense made the plays behind her. It was a good all-around machine from pitching to catching to fielding to hitting."
Thomas loaded the bases in the first inning recorded her first two strikeouts and had a heads-up play made by third baseman Asya Nichols to force the runner out at home. After some line drives in the second that produced one run, Thomas struck out five of the next eight batters and Montgomery County bats were kept silent for the rest of the game.
New Bloomfield added three more runs in the fifth to make it 5-1, as three balls were sent toward right field and balls kept dropping around the fielder, resulting in a single for senior Kamryn Herron, a triple for junior Brooklynn Smith and a double for Asya Nichols that drove in her second run. Nichols also scored her only run on a catcher's throw that sailed into left field.
The Lady Wildcats ended the game on an exclamation point through the glove and arm of freshman shortstop Macie Abbott. With one out and a runner on first, a laser was sent in the vicinity of Abbott, who dove to her right to snag it out of the air before firing a strike to first to end the game with a double play.
Reinkemeyer said Abbott's was the most sparkling defensive play in a game New Bloomfield (14-9) had plenty of them. She believes the team is peaking at the right time and is ready to beat anyone as New Bloomfield looks toward its championship game with No. 4 Salisbury (14-9) — who defeated No. 5 South Callaway and No. 1 Fayette — at 6 p.m. today in Harrisburg, which will be moved to South Callaway if conditions are too wet.
"We just wanted to start peaking at the end of the season, and they're putting it together," Reinkemeyer said. "We have not seen Salisbury this year, but the way we approach is anybody can win any game on any day so we have to go out there and put our best foot out."