EATON — Eaton’s softball team used the long ball along with a solid pitching performance and strong defensive effort to defeat Talawanda 7-1 in the second round of the Division II Dayton 3 sectional tournament on Friday, May 13.
With the win, Eaton (17-7) advances to its first sectional final since 2004, where it will face a familiar foe.
The No. 4 seeded Eagles were scheduled to play No. 3 seed Monroe on Tuesday, May 17, at Valley View. The date marks exactly 12 years since Eaton last played in a sectional final.
Eaton and Monroe have met twice this season, with the Hornets taking the first game 6-1 and Eaton winning the second contest, 10-7, after rallying from a 7-1 deficit.
“It’s going to be a battle. Every pitch. Every play. Obviously, if we get down we know we can come back and win. One thing we need to work on is jumping on them early. If we jump on teams early it changes the whole game,” Eaton coach Maggie Neanen said. “If we can control them and keep them off the bases and we can do what we do best, we’ll win this game.”
Eaton jumped out to a quick lead against the Braves in their final home game of the season and never looked back, when Becca Mowen hit her first home run of the season — a two-run shot to straight away center in the bottom of the first, scoring Kathryn Madewell, who was a courtesy runner for pitcher Meghan Puckett. The Eagles had a chance to do more damage in the first, but left the bases loaded.
In the bottom of the second, Emily Dungan walked to lead off the inning and and went to third on a single by Madison Couch. She scored a fielder’s choice by Puckett to make it 3-0.
The score remained that way until the next inning when Stacia Weathington drove a pitch over the left center field fence for her first home run of the season, a three-run shot, scoring Mowen and Ashlynn Black, who was pinch running for Annika Gels, to make it 6-0.
Eaton added its final run in the fifth, when Couch, who was 2-for-4, singled in Dungan.
Mowen, who was 4-for-4 with two RBIs, had two extra-base hits. She homered in the first inning, doubled in the fourth inning, and singled in the second and fifth innings.
“We had a lot of long ball today. We haven’t hit a home run since (early in the season) and to see Becca finally get one, she was due all season and then Stacia, she just took that pitch for a ride,” Neanen said. “Our hitters got some hits strung together early and we were aggressive at the plate and we were aggressive on the bases. I was very proud of them tonight.”
The previous night, Eaton looked sluggish in a 6-2 first round win over Carroll.
“Coach and I challenged them before the game during warm ups to have a good energy because last night when Carroll did it to us we just got down. We were right in the game. We scored first. I think the challenge and then the home runs, everything just kind of helps and their energy was just phenomenal,” Neanen said.
Puckett kept contact to a minimum, striking out six Talawanda batters. She allowed no earned runs, three hits and two walks over seven innings.
“Last night, I actually thought she threw pretty well. She will tell you she did not throw good at all. Tonight, before the game I asked her how she felt and she said she got her act together. She’s earned it. So for her to get this and go out on three wins I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Neanen said.
All five of the seniors contributed in some way during their final home game at Brooke Gould Memorial Field.
“I think the seniors are all happy. They all got in today. So to be able to contribute on their last time on this field means a lot to them,” Neanen said.
Against Carroll, the No. 14 seed, Eaton jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first, but left the bases loaded. Bailee Worley led off the inning with a triple to left and scored on a single from Couch.
The Patriots tied the game in the top of the third on a home run by Marina Stevens. Carroll then took a 2-1 in the fifth on single by Stevens.
Eaton responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the inning. After the first two batters were retired, Mowen, who was 2-for-4, doubled to left field and Gels followed with a hard hit single to left to score Mowen and tie the game.
The Eagles, who are having one of their best regular seasons in program history, put the game out of reach in the sixth when they scored four runs.
Grace Miller reached on an error and Dungan followed with a single. Worley, who was 2-for-4, then doubled to score Miller to make it 3-2. Couch, who was 2-for-4 with three RBIs, drove in both Dungan and Worley for a 5-2 lead. Puckett, who was 2-for-4, ended the scoring with a single to center to score Couch.
Puckett got the win for the Eagles thanks to eight strikeouts. She allowed one earned run, five hits and one walk over seven innings.
Neanen said she is seeing a change in the team mentality.
“I think they believe they can win,” she said, noting that always hasn’t been the case this season.
And one more win will accomplish something no other Eaton softball team has ever done and that’s win a sectional championship and advance to the districts.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH