Indian Creek out-duels Minerva for district title

WARSAW – Fans of dominant pitching received quite a treat in the district title game.

In a battle of standout juniors, Indian Creek’s Paige Geanangel outdueled Minerva’s Rachel Eberling to lead the Redskins past the Lions, 1-0, in an Ohio Division II Eastern District Co-Final Thursday evening at Bill Rice Field at River View.

“It means how much hard work the girls have put into the program has paid off,” Indian Creek head coach Angela Penner said. “The girls work hard day in and day out. Some of them work on their game outside of high school. They play travel ball. I am really proud of them.”

With the win, Indian Creek (17-2) has advanced to the Region 7 Semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Pickerington Central High School against the winner of Saturday’s game between No. 1 seed Licking Valley and No. 7 seed Columbus Bishop Hartley. First pitch in that contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Pickerington Central.

The two pitchers were directly responsible for 29 of the 42 outs in the game, and the dynamic duo only allowed a total of three base runners all game long.

Only two balls were hit into the outfield in the air. Both of those balls came off of the bat of Geanangel.

Geanangel and Eberling combined to strike out 25 batters in the game. Geanangel also collected two assists and she caught a pop up, while Eberling tallied one assist.

“Paige is a competitor,” Penner said. “She worked her tail off.”

Geanangel not only picked up the win for the Redskins, but she also delivered the game-winning hit with a one-out double in the top of the fourth inning.

“Give Paige credit,” Penner said. “Paige not only had 12 strikeouts, but she also had the hit that put us ahead. You can’t ask for anything more from a pitcher. She had the big hit and 12 strikeouts in the same game.”

Eberling nearly matched Geanangel pitch for pitch.

“She was a good pitcher,” Penner said. “Give her credit.

“We struggled at the plate tonight. That is something we are going to need to work on down the road, because we are going to face pitchers like her. We are going to have to be able to adjust.”

Geanangel pitched a perfect game through six innings before giving up a lead-off hit to Shania Miller, but Miller ended up being stranded at third base at the end of the game.

Eberling struck out seven of the first nine Indian Creek batters she faced in the game, including the first four.

The ball bounced the Redskins way in the fourth.

Catcher Abby Orr led off the inning with a bloop base hit. The ball bounced on the dirt between the Lions shortstop and third baseman enabling Orr to reach base. The senior backstop moved to second on a pitch in the dirt.

With one out, Geanangel belted a double over the ahead of the centerfielder allowing Orr to race around the base and score to give the girls from Jefferson County a 1-0 advantage.

“Abby had been struggling a little bit, but she came through for us with that first hit,” Penner said.

The Lions only chance to score came in the bottom of the seventh.

After retiring the first 18 batters of the game, Geanangel gave up a single to Shania Miller to start the inning. Miller singled up the middle to become the Lions first base runner of the game.

Miller moved up to second on a passed ball, and she advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt.

With two outs, Eberling stepped to the plate, and it was fitting that the game came down to a battle between the two pitchers. In the end, Geanangel came out on top.

Geanangel got Eberling to hit a ground ball to third base, and Indian Creek third baseman Alexis Monroe fielded the ball cleanly and threw the ball across the infield to Hannah Webb at first to record the final out, and the celebrating began.

“I am so proud of the girls,” Penner said. “I am proud of our coaches too. The coaches work hard just like everybody else.

“The girls do everything we ask them to do. They work really hard. I am really proud of them.

“We are here because we earned it.”

Indian Creek lost in the district co-final in each of the past two seasons to Dover. The Tornadoes defeated the Redskins, 2-1, in nine innings last year, and the girls from Tuscarawas County were victorious by a score of 6-1 in 2012.

“We lost here the last two years to Dover,” Penner said. “Last year, we lost to Dover 2-1. I am glad we came out on top this year.

“We also played errorless ball behind Paige.”

Indian Creek advanced to the district tournament by defeating Edison, 3-1, in the semifinals last Friday out at Jefferson Lake State Park before defeating Big Red, 8-7, in the sectional final Monday. The Redskins scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to rally their way past Big Red.

“We love to play good games,” Penner said. “Big Red is an excellent team. Minerva is a great team. Give credit to them. Big Red was the OVAC 4-A champions. They had a good season.”

After coming up short the last two seasons, the Redskins were on a mission to get past the districts this season.

“It was one of our team goals at the beginning of the season,” Penner said. “We wanted to get back to the districts. We wanted to get the three-peat and win the districts this year.

“We had four goals this season. We wanted to be OVAC champions. We wanted to win a sectional title. We wanted to three-peat. We wanted to get back to the district final and win it.”

The fourth goal was to give Penner her 100th victory. The girls did that when they defeated Big Red in the sectional final. The victory over the Lions is win No. 101. Penner now has a record of 101-36.

The Lions advanced to the district tournament by winning a sectional title at Carrollton. Minerva defeated East Liverpool, 6-0, in the semifinals before defeating Dover, 4-3, in the sectional final.