PLAIN CITY — Fremont cruised to an easier-than-it-looked 8-3 quarterfinal win over Hunter, relying on veteran leadership to create a five-run sixth inning to keep the Silver wolves spotless in the playoffs.
Third baseman Haylee Hoch stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with a one-run lead in a tight game, trying to redeem herself from a previous at-bat that left three runners stranded.
Hoch kept fouling off pitch after pitch from Hunter pitcher Dayanna Jenkins. After one more foul ball, Hoch looked over to head coach Jim Fuller, who loosened up the senior with a little humor.
"I told her she's like a little kid with an ice cream cone," Fuller said. "She wants to eat the whole thing in one swallow. I told her if she takes one little lick, with her strength, the ball will go a long way."
Hoch must be a timely listener: on the next pitch, she hit a monstrous three-run home run into the tree in left field to break the game wide-open for Fremont.
" I was just trying to forget about all the other at-bats," Hoch said. " I wasn't really thinking about anything. Coach just told me to keep the ball in play, and that's what we try to do."
It also doesn't hurt to have a great tandem of pitchers, either: starting pitcher Vanessa Bodily and reliever Angela Devries combined to allow only three runs on nine hits, walking three batters and striking out eight.
Fremont (13-1, 21-3) got out of the blocks quickly when Bodily struck out three consecutive batters. The Silver wolves capitalized in their half of the inning on an RBI single by senior left fielder Michel Hunt, putting Fremont on the board first.
Bodily kept the Wolverines (6-4, 16-9) scoreless through three innings, racking up five strikeouts while center fielder Erin Bastian hit another RBI single to stretch the score to 2-0.
Hunter came back in the fourth inning, tying things up at two on a Latiesha Webster home run to center field and an RBI double to right by shortstop Ashley Hobbs. Wolverine hitters were patient, fouling many pitches, before they made Bodily pay, taking her out of the game.
The tension of a seesaw battle continued into the fifth when Fremont took the lead back on a sacrifice fly to right by junior catcher Shay Shaum. Hunter responded and threatened to resume the lead in the sixth, but left two runners on base.
That's when the floodgates opened on Hunter.
Junior second baseman Ashley Russell started things off with a bloop single to center field. Junior first baseman Maddi Hales then hit a single, and Russell advanced to third on a throwing error by the Hunter first baseman. Hales stole second base, then Hoch drove them all home with her three-run shot two batters later. Hunt sent a line drive screaming to left-center, senior right fielder Kami Johnson singled up the gap, then advanced on an error by the shortstop and sophomore Meagan Neilson drove those two home with a two-RBI double that hit the left-field wall to slam the door on the Wolverines. With all there was to be proud about after the game, Fremont coach Jim Fuller couldn't stop talking about his seniors, especially Hoch.
"You might keep her down for a little bit, but Haylee won't stay down for long," Fuller said. "She hit that ball clear into the tree, and that hasn't been done for a while. This is the type of team we have with our five seniors. They are what keeps our team going."