United pierced by Lancers

Gilmour Academy's Mi-Na Diggs steals second base ahead of the throw to United shortstop Samantha Lippiatt in Tuesday's Division III district semifinal at South Range High School. (Morning Journal/Ron Firth)

GREENFORD — Both the eighteenth-seeded Gilmour Academy Lancers and the 11th-seeded United Eagles came into Tuesday’s Division IV district semifinal with a lot of confidence and momentum following big wins last Thursday.

The Lancers kept that momentum going with a convincing 15-2 win over United in five innings. The Lancers advance to face the top-seeded South Range Raiders at 5 p.m. Thursday in the district final.

“We have that just one more game mentality,” Lancers coach Anthony Bondra said. “We know how good South Range is by their pedigree and their staff. I’m hoping we give them a go on Thursday.”

Gilmour improves to 7-5-1, while United closes at 15-4, including two losses to Columbiana.

The contest may have been a disappointing conclusion to the Eagles’ season, but it marked a substantial improvement in their program over the past four years for their three seniors. It should also give the returning players big goals to shoot for in the future.

“They don’t play a lot of summer or fall softball, so this is all they have,” Eagles coach Matt Zines said. “They also lost a year to COVID, so they wanted to be the first team to win a district. They worked hard in the off-season, and this means a lot to our program to get through sectionals and get to play at this level. To see the level of play at this level, I think we got our eyes opened a little bit. It’s going to be easier to get them to work in the off-season.”

“Our freshman season we were terrible, we were 1 and 17,” United senior catcher Brielle Rose said. “Our sophomore year COVID wreaked it. Junior year we were ok, but still not as good. But this year we really felt like all the off-season work and a lot of heart like I have never seen with as much as these girls have. It was just a pleasure to play with these girls and the coaches we have to help us out.”

The Lancers began the game with a bang as they scored three times in the top of the first as their leadoff hitter Laney Klika began the game with a double to left center. She scored on an RBI single by Allison Schuh. Megan Mlinarnic brought Schuh home with a single and eventually score following a throwing error to stake the Lancers to a 3-0 lead.

The Eagles responded in the bottom of the frame by putting two runs on the scoreboard. Sam Lippiatt led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on an infield single by Joshlynn Irey. Tori Firth brought Lippiatt home with an RBI single to center, and Irey scored on another RBI hit to center by Colby Burton. That made it 3-2 after one inning of play.

“We put the ball in play fairly well,” Zines said. “They are an outstanding defensive team and they definitely showed that. We were happy with the offense. We just couldn’t get (base runners) in scoring position as much as we would have liked.”

“We always tell our kids that there is going to be a pushback,” Bondra said. “We just try to minimize it and move on. They (United) are a good team. The score is not indicative of the talent that they have.”

But the Lancers scored 12 unanswered runs in the next four innings to make it a 10-run rule game. In the meantime, the Lancers pitcher Megan Mlinarnic kept the Eagles from denting the scoreboard in the next four innings.

Mlinaric picked up the victory in the circle striking out seven batters and only giving up six hits and three walks. She also helped herself at the plate with three hits, including a three-run homer in the fourth, knocking in four runs.

The Eagles were led by Burton with two hits and an RBI. Firth added the other RBI, but also suffered the loss in the circle. She surrendered 15 hits and three walks while striking out three.

“You know, we are pleased with the season,” Zines said. “I’m like everybody else, I hate losing. We obviously wanted more. My girls are disappointed.”

“I hope this season pushes the girls,” Rose said. “They have a lot more fight left in them.”

G: 3-2-3-3-4–15-15-0

U: 2-0-0-0-0– 2-6- 2

G–Megan Mlinaric, wp (5IP, 7K, 3BB) and Lily Prebul.

U–Tori Firth, lp (5IP, 3K, 3BB) and Brielle Rose.

TWO OR MORE HITS: GILMOUR-Laney Klika 3, Megan Mlinaric 3, Lauren Riccobelli 3, Allison Schuh 2, Clare Peterson 2, Ella Jackson 2. UNITED-Colby Burton 2. DOUBLES: GILMOUR-Klika 2, Peterson 1, Jackson 1. HOME RUNS: GILMOUR-Mlinarnic. TWO OR MORE RBIs: GILMOUR-Mlinarnic 4, Peterson 4, Schuh 2, Riccobelli 2.


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