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BEECHER CITY – The Lady Aces are back where they feel most comfortable.
A year after being upset in the championship game of the Egyptian-Illini Conference Tournament, the perennial power played flawless defense and got a few timely hits on Saturday to beat Ramsey, 4-1.
“I am thrilled,” said first-year coach Teresa Tompkins. “The girls did a fantastic job, played hard and did their best.”
Sophomore Kate Jolliff collected four hits and scored twice, and senior Megan Blankenship pitched a complete game, allowing just four hits and one walk, to lead Mulberry Grove.
But it was the defense that ultimately made the difference.
Ramsey committed two costly errors in the first inning, allowing Blankenship and Jolliff to score.
Blankenship reached base after two Ramsey outfielders collided, and scored when a throwing error was committed on a grounder by senior Harley Tompkins.
Breann Tompkins then singled to score Jolliff.
“Whoever made the least amount of errors would win the game, and that’s what we did today,” Teresa Tompkins said.
Mulberry Grove scored a third unearned run in the sixth after Josie Koontz’s grounder got past second base and she scored on a single from Jolliff.
Ramsey coach Mike Jackson also said that defense was the key to the game, noting that the three unearned runs made the difference in the final score.
“We’ve played them three times (this spring), and I don’t know if they have made an error,” he said. “I’m actually glad we aren’t in their regional, so we can see someone else.”
Oddly enough, if both teams are able to win regional championships, they would play a fourth time in the opening round of the sectional tournament on May 23.
Tompkins said she welcomes the challenge of playing the Lady Rams, whose lone run in the EIC title game came after junior Shaunna Rainey walked and was driven home by junior Peyton Banal.
“It’s good to have a little sportsman rivalry,” Tompkins said. “It makes us both compete harder.”
Mulberry Grove’s only unearned run of the game came in the fifth, when Jolliff led off with a double and scored when Breann Tompkins hit into a fielder’s choice.
Rainey doubled with two outs in the sixth inning, but was stranded. Banal led off the seventh with a single, but the Lady Aces turned a double play two pitches later and Blankenship struck out the final batter.
Mulberry Grove 4
WP: Blankenship; 7 IP, 7 K, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB
LP: Knisley; 4 IP, 2 K, 2 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 1 BB
Lady Aces: Jolliff, 4-for-4, 2B. RBI, 2 runs; B. Tompkins, 1-for-3, RBI; Sam Goodin, 1-for-3; Cheyenne Rogier, 1-for-3; Karissa Woody, 1-for-3; H. Tompkins, RBI; Koontz, run, BB; Blankenship, run, BB.
Lady Rams: Banal, 2-for-3; Rainey, 1-for-2, 2B, run, BB; Darien Carter, 1-for-3, SB.
In the semifinals, nine walks and a pair of home runs helped the Lady Aces to a 12-run first inning that set the tone for a 14-1 win against Beecher City.
Eight of the first nine batters walked before senior Megan Blankenship hit a grand slam.
Senior Harley Tompkins followed with a two-run shot, bringing home sophomore Kate Jolliff, who doubled.
Sophomore Breann Tompkins singled home Harley Tompkins in the third, and Josie Koontz walked and scored in the fourth.
Breann Tompkins allowed just four hits from the pitcher's circle, with the only damage coming in the third after a single and a triple produced a run.
Mulberry Grove 14
Beecher City 1
WP: B. Tompkins (4-0); 5 IP, 4 K, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 0 BB
Lady Aces: H. Tompkins, 2-for-2, HR, 2B, 2 runs, BB; Blankenship, 1-for-3, HR, 4 RBI, 2 runs, BB; Jolliff, 1-for-3, 2B, 2 runs, BB; Kayla Zimmerman, 2-for-2, 2B, 2 runs, 2 BB; Cheyenne Rogier, 2-for-2, BB; B. Tompkins, 2-for-2, run, BB; Koontz, 2 runs, 2 BB; Sam Goodin, BB, run.