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OLD WASHINGTON -- On a day when Buckeye Trail High utilized "small ball" time and time again, it was a "big bop" that got the Lady Warriors untracked and then a fourth-inning explosion resulted in a 12-2 "mercy rule" victory over Barnesville in the Division III Sectional Tournament on Monday.
The Lady Warriors (19-6) will now host the D-III Sectional co-final Wednesday against Monroe Central, a 7-0 winner over West Muskingum in another first-round game Monday.
Much like the regular season game on the Lady Warriors' diamond, it was scoreless early before Trail finally caught fire.
Cassidy Dobbins was hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the third for Trail, with Kylie Wayble inserted as a pinch-runner.
Ali McVicker then reached on an error while attempting to sacrifice and, after an out, Amber Colvin dropped down a bunt single to load the bases before one big swing of the bat by senior Alexis Wheeler - a grand slam to dead-center field - put Trail in control of things with a 4-0 lead.
The Lady Warriors re-loaded the bases on singles by Hannah Smith, Randi Leigh Rippeth and Jenni Carmichael (the last two on bunts), but a force play at home and a groundout avoided further scoring.
Barnesville cut the lead in half in the top of the fourth. Baylie MacMillan reached on a fielder's choice, with Sydney Leach inserted as a courtesy runner; Hunter Miller lined a single for the Lady Shamrocks' first hit and Regan Hanlon coaxed a walk to load the bases before Abby Starr delivered a two-run single.
Trail put the game away by tallying eight runs in the bottom of the fourth, including a two-run single by Dobbins; RBI singles by Maybelline Rodriguez, Amber Colvin and Wheeler and an RBI double by Smith.
"We're learning to be patient in the box depending on the pitcher's speed," said Trail coach Staci Smith. "When you do that, good things happen.
"One of out strengths is our base running, and we capitalized on that again today," she added. "The girls were able to place the ball so well, and we take advantage of our speed."
Wheeler's grand slam, single and five RBI led the Trail offense while Amber Colvin had two singles.
Barnesville coach Leslie Skinner pointed to her team's inability to stop Trail's "small ball" attack as the difference.
"We just did not field the bunt well at all today," she offered. "That's definitely something we'll have to work on for the future.
"They had a speed advantage, no doubt," she added, "but we've still got to make the plays."
Hannah Smith again went the distance in the circle for the pitching win, striking out three and walking two
"She had a little mechanical issue on the mound (in the fourth inning)," said her coach/mother, "but we got it fixed between innings and she finished it out."
Barnesville freshman Hanlon took the loss with one strikeout, two walks and one hit batsman in three-plus innings. Chloe Campbell came on in relief and issued three walks.
For Barnesville (11-16), a double-digit victory season sets the lone for next season according to Coach Skinner.
"There was a lot of positivity this season," she said. "That's probably the most wins we've had in four years or more, so it's something to build on for next year with seven kids coming back.
"We'll miss Bri (Bohandy) and Abby (Gibbons) and Sam (Arigoni)," the Lady Shamrocks' coach added. "Two of them were four-year players, so we'll have to fill those spots next season."