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Oberlin wins sectional final behind Rivas gem

Softball

 

Oberlin came away from Wellington with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over the Dukes in a Division III sectional final May 12 as pitcher Bryanna Rivas tossed an eight-inning shutout, striking out 11.

After facing several jams in the first four innings, the sophomore set down 12 straight batters between the fourth and seventh, striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings with no score on the board.

She allowed a leadoff single to start the bottom of the eighth with a one-run lead and promptly retired the next three, closing the game with a strikeout.

Rivas was soft-spoken afterward but let her game do the talking on the mound.

“I had a lot going on my head,” Rivas said of the high-pressure situation in the bottom of the eighth, “but I was just trying to stay calm and get the out. My defense really came today and helped me out a lot.”

Her coach, Josie Martin, had a bit more to say about her pitcher’s dominant performance.

“She was definitely in the zone today,” Martin said. “She was focused, and I talked to her before the game about not sleeping on any pitch. She had to focus, and she definitely brought it.”

Both teams received great pitching performances, as Wellington sophomore Rianna Rosecrans worked seven shutout innings before Oberlin was finally able to scratch a run across in the top of the eighth.

Oberlin freshman Victoria Jackson reached base on Wellington’s first error of the game before freshman Taylor Anderson followed her up with a clutch single. Junior Myleia Holt drew a walk to load the bases and sophomore Khalilah Wimbley was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring Jackson home, which proved to be the game-winning run.

In a game in which baserunners were hard to come by, it was a fitting way for the only run of the day to score.

Wellington had its opportunities throughout, one of which came in the bottom of the third with runners at the corners and one out, but senior catcher Olivia Pfeifer caught Brooklinn Damiano at third base, who tripped on her way back to the bag.

It proved to be a costly play, but Damiano was one of the biggest reasons Wellington kept the Phoenix off the board for seven innings, as the freshman robbed Oberlin of extra bases three times with spectacular diving catches in center field.

Wellington (13-8, 11-5 PAC) played an all-around clean game, save for two hiccups, but Wellington coach Duane Sunagel tipped his cap to Rivas, who delivered a big-time performance on a big stage.

“We had some opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them, but Oberlin came to play today,” Sunagel said. “We had a girl slip up on the way back to third and we made one mistake there in that eighth inning that allowed them to get some girls on and they got the job done. We had done well against Rivas in the past, but today, she was holding us down,”

The Phoenix came into the district tournament as the No. 7 seed, but have already knocked off No. 10 Lutheran West and No. 2 Wellington, and extended their winning streak to six games including the sectional championship. Martin believes her team’s experience playing in tight situations throughout the season has them ready for this time of year.

“We had a lot of one-run games this season, and I think that helped us prepare for this game,” Martin said. “They have a lot of resilience, and we just preach to them to not put their heads down and they always keep pushing forward.”

Oberlin (16-9, 6-7 PAC) moves on to face the winner of Independence-Gilmour in a Division III district semifinal at Avon Lake on May 18.

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