May 29—MIDDLEBURY — For the 18th time in program history, Northridge softball is sectional champions.
The Raiders shutout Goshen, 6-0, on a cold Friday night to win their second-straight sectional crown. Northridge (25-3-1) now advances to play Penn (19-11) in a Class 4A regional game Tuesday in Mishawaka.
“It is awesome,” said Northridge coach Ray Caples on winning a sectional title. “Credit to (junior pitcher) Abby (Hostetler) again in the circle. … Lot of intangibles, right? Lots of balls in play, lots of stolen bases. It’s an awesome feeling, especially losing the season last year. We’re defending champions with a gap year, so it’s really nice to know that, with the hard work that these girls did, that they were able to come back and perform at the same level that they were at two years ago.”
It was a pitcher’s dual early between Northridge’s Hostetler and Goshen’s Liz Ramirez. Neither team scored a run in the first two innings, and it wasn’t until two outs in the top of the third when the Raiders started making some noise.
Meredith Frey, out of the nine-spot in the lineup, drew a walk. She then stole second base, putting herself in scoring position. In the next at-bat, Northridge senior Madison Wienert ripped a triple into left field, scoring Frey to make it 1-0 Northridge.
Despite the game being in Middlebury, the Raiders were the road team based on the way the sectional bracket was drawn up, hence why Northridge was batting in the top half of innings.
Although Frey is at the bottom of the Raider lineup, she doesn’t hit like someone who’s that low in the order.
“That number nine hitter could easily be a leadoff hitter,” Caples said. “In fact, you might want to come back and see her because she just might be in that top spot.”
Frey then also flashed the leather in the bottom of the fifth. Goshen had a runner on third base with two outs when junior Olivia Koshmider hit a sinking liner to left. It looked as if it would fall down for a hit to cut the RedHawk deficit to 3-1, but Frey made a diving catch to end the inning and preserve the shutout.
“We’ve been working really hard with the girls on selling out on the defensive end,” Caples said. “Against Concord, you saw Chloe Gust dive for first base to get an out, and now we see Meredith dive in the outfield to get an out. It’s all about that effort.
“We’ve got these wristbands that say the words, ‘All in’ — just kind of that commitment, game after game, and what are you willing to do to win a championship. And, that effort right there was exactly what it was all about.”
Northridge then broke the game open in the top of the sixth. Jenifer Robinson had an RBI single to score Wienert, then Chloe Gust belted a two-run homer over the right field wall to extend the Raider lead to 6-0. The home run gave Gust the single-season program record for homers in a season with seven.
Goshen’s season ends with a 19-11 record. They had won eight-straight games going into the sectional title game Friday and only graduate one senior, Klair Sweet. That has Goshen coach Brent Kulp excited for what the RedHawks could achieve next season.
“We are young — not even taking in COVID,” Kulp said. “So, it was a great experience, and I think that they understand now that we have to work. And, we’ve got to get better in the offseason. … We broke a lot of school records overall with this team, with like most hits in a season, most stolen bases. So, we’re going to go back to work.”
Northridge now gets ready to play a Penn team that they lost to, 5-2, back in early April. It’s also a rematch of the 2019 regional game, one the Kingsmen easily won, 15-1.
“Our challenge is staying clean,” said Caples was a key to victory over Penn for Tuesday. “We’re not worried about going to Penn — same company that put our (turf) field in put their field in, so everything’s good there. When we lost to them earlier in the season, we weren’t clean, right? We gave up two errors that were on the board and had three more errors that were mental errors that didn’t show up. … Penn’s been a good rival for us since I started coaching, and it’ll be nice to see them again and get a win over them.”
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.