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Big seventh inning keeps Eagles unbeaten

By JOSH MORGRET • Apr 18, 2018 at 9:26 PM

NEW LONDON — Monroeville's Paige Schafer could not have had a worse first two at-bats on Wednesday.

Schafer struck out both times before hitting a single in the sixth. Schafer put all the pieces together in the seventh inning by launching a big three-run home run.

That was just a part of a seven-run seventh inning for the unbeaten Eagles in a 9-0 Firelands Conference win over New London.

"Paige was a little anxious or amped up a bit early," Monroeville coach Abe Helmstetter said. "She was able to control her emotions and make adjustments."

Skiler Hershiser led off the seventh inning with a double for the Eagles (11-0, 4-0 FC), then Payton Scheid singled and stole second. Taylor Reer singled to score Hershiser and after a flyout, an infield single from Ashlyn Tommas brought in Scheid. Then, Schafer took the second pitch she saw from New London starter Kathy VanGilder over the left field fence for a 7-0 lead.

"It was two great pitchers in a nice dual," New London coach Joe Thomas said. "Carley (Helmstetter) is a great pitcher. Kathy, I thought, pitched a heck of a game. Monroeville just came alive in that last inning."

After another flyout, Brooke Kime and Jessica Hayes each singled. Hershiser and Scheid each followed with run-scoring singles to increase the lead to 9-0. VanGilder got Reer to groundout to finally end the inning, but not before 33 pitches from VanGilder and nine hits from Monroeville.

"Kathy got a little rattled," Thomas said. "She laid the ball over the plate and Monroeville started hitting the ball. They are a good team."

The game was a battle for the first six innings. The Eagles were gifted a run in the first inning from New London (3-3, 3-1). Alex Carper struck out, but the third strike was dropped as Carper raced to first. She stole second base and with Monroeville starting pitcher Carley Helmstetter at the plate, Carper stole third and scored when the throw to third was high.

"VanGilder is a heck of a pitcher. She came out and was throwing the ball hard," coach Helmstetter said. "Hitting is contagious. The kids made adjustments and hit the ball well."

The Eagles tacked on a run in the third inning. Carper reached on a bunt single before Tommas ripped a double to deep left field.

That was more than enough offense for Helmstetter in the circle. The junior sat down the first 10 New London batters — including seven via strikeout. The Wildcats finally got a runner on when Cassidy Lay singled just past the outstretched glove of Hershiser at first base. Helmstetter bounced back with her eighth strikeout and a simple grounder to end the frame.

"Carley is a gamer," said coach Helmstetter. "When it is game time, she comes to play. We are fortunate to have her on our team. She has worked hard over the years, so it is nice to see it paying off."

Helmstetter struck out the side in the fifth inning — the third inning she had done such. VanGilder, a Division I Miami University recruit, smacked a double in the sixth inning with two outs, but Helmstetter got Lay to fly out to end the inning.

Helmstetter finished with 13 strikeouts and had a two-strike count on every batter in the game except the final two hitters, both of which swung at the first pitch — one a groundout and one a flyout.

"When you have a great pitcher like Carley, you have to shorten up and put the ball in play," Thomas said. "We knew she liked to throw her rise-ball, so we told the girls to be disciplined, but she is a good pitcher. She throws strikes."

The two teams will play again at 11 a.m. Saturday at Monroeville.

"New London is a good program," coach Helmstetter said. "Softball is big here if you look around the field at all the banners. It is always going to be a competitive conference game with them."

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