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Having defeated the 2014 state champions in the regional semifinals, the Lady Cardinals faced off against Wheelersburg, the 2016 state champions, in a Division III regional final held at Lancaster High School.
With a trip to the final four hanging in the balance, the Lady Pirates did just enough to beat Sandy Valley 2-0.
Makayla Loveless and Faith Howard were locked in a pitcher's duel until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Wheelersburg took advantage of a couple of errors and plated two runs.
Sandy Valley had its chances in the first and third innings, but were unable to dent the scoreboard.
In the opening inning, Loveless singled to right and Ari Ott worked the count for a walk. In the third, Alyssa Sines reached on an error and Izzy Hysong drew a walk. In both instances, Howard was able to record strikeouts to end the threats.
A single by Kayla Campbell with one out in the fourth was the last hit for the Lady Cardinals, as Howard did not allow a base runner over the final three innings.
Loveless pitched well and deserved a better fate. The senior allowed two unearned runs on five hits, striking out three.
Howard gave up two hits and two walks, striking out nine.
"We put the ball in play, but we just didn't get the key hits when we needed them," stated Head Coach Cortney Geiger. "Our bats went dead at the end. She (Howard) is a heck of a pitcher. She moved the ball around and kept us on our toes the entire game. And they are a very solid defensive team as well. She is the best pitcher that we faced this season.
"Makayla pitched a great game. Our strategy was to keep it outside on them and make them pull it and hit it to right side. They are a great hitting team, with a lot of power throughout the lineup.
"When I go into a season I have the highest expectations. We set goals at the beginning of the year to go as far as we can. This team is very special. We had a solid five seniors who all started by the end of the season. We've had a family bond that has been unstoppable until now."
The Lady Cardinals end the 2017 campaign with a 25-4 mark, tying the school record for most wins in a season.
Sandy Valley - 10
Westfall - 3
Earlier in the week, the Lady Cardinals reached the finals with a 10-3 come-from-behind victory over the Lady Mustangs.
Rebecca Brown led off the game with a home run to give Westfall a quick 1-0 lead. An unearned run in the second inning extended the lead to 2-0.
Sandy Valley had plenty of base runners over the first four innings, including bases loaded situations in both the third and fourth innings.
All totaled, the Lady Cardinals stranded eight runners as they trailed by two entering the bottom of the fifth.
Ari Ott jump-started the offense with a solo home run to left.
The Lady Mustangs responded with an unearned run in the top of sixth for a 3-1 advantage.
In its half of the inning, Sandy Valley sent 13 batters to the plate, resulting in nine runs. All of the damage came with two outs.
Loveless came through with a clutch two-run double to tie the game, plating Montana Boyer and Meg Otte.
Two batters later, Mandi Williams had an RBI single, scoring Loveless with the go-ahead run. An RBI single by Alyssa Sines scored Campbell, Otte drove in two with a bases-loaded single up the middle, and Sines recorded the final run of the game as she raced home from third on a wild pitch.
Loveless went the distance, giving up one earned run on six hits. She struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Montana Boyer finished with two hits and two runs scored; Sines singled twice, scored once and drove in a run; Otte walked three times and had a two-run base hit; Ott homered, scored twice, and drove in a run; and Loveless had two hits, including a double, two RBIs and a run scored.