AUBURN – Saturday night’s district softball title contest between Conestoga and Auburn had the pregame electricity of a state matchup.
The Cougars and Bulldogs gave fans multiple high-wattage moments during all seven innings of their championship battle.
A large crowd at Auburn City Recreation Complex watched Auburn stop Conestoga 8-5 in the District C-1 Tournament. The title game marked the fourth time the conference teams had played this season. Auburn won the three previous matchups by scores of 3-2, 3-2 and 3-1.
Conestoga head coach Sarah Harvey said the Bulldogs took advantage of those previous outcomes in the first-place game. The earlier victories this year gave AHS players a reservoir of confidence that they drew from throughout the contest. The team had also eliminated Conestoga from the 2016 district tournament.
“I think it was a mental thing more than anything,” Harvey said. “Knowing they had knocked us out last year was something that put pressure on us.”
Auburn’s Meg Rieschick tried to give the Bulldogs an early lead when she drove a two-out pitch near the center-field fence in the first inning. Conestoga outfielder Hannah Vogler tracked down the ball and made a diving grab as she crashed into the barrier. Teammates rushed over to congratulate her as the Cougars headed back to the dugout.
The game remained scoreless until CHS posted a solo run in the bottom of the third. Sophia Svanda reached base on an infield error and advanced to third base on a throwing error and Vogler’s sacrifice bunt. She scored on Reagan Ruffner’s infield hit.
The teams traded runs in the fourth inning. Auburn posted a leadoff single and loaded the bases on a walk, fielder’s choice and infield error. The team then scored on Maclaine Hug’s RBI single to left. Svanda prevented additional damage with a webgem on the play. She scooped up Hug’s grounder and transferred the softball to her throwing arm in one fluid motion. She then pegged a laser to home plate to keep the game tied at 1-1.
Conestoga (22-10) responded with a solo run in its half of the frame. Becca Simpson drilled a leadoff single and advanced to third on Courtney Wagner’s ground-rule double. Svanda then launched a RBI single to right field.
Auburn (24-8) grabbed a 4-2 lead by putting the ball in play in the fifth. Macy Rieschick tied the game at 2-2 when she scored from second base on Meg Rieschick’s ground-rule double. The Bulldogs then plated a pair of runs on a two-out error.
The Cougars roared back to tie things at 4-4 in their next turn at the plate. Ruffner drew a leadoff walk and swiped second base without a throw. Autumn Hardesty knocked a RBI single to right field and immediately stole second base. She sprinted home on an infield error.
Auburn seized the game’s energy with four runs in the sixth inning. Hug drew a leadoff walk and courtesy runner Maddie Reiman scored after singles by Kylie Stutheit and Macy Rieschick. Mollie Grant then brought Auburn fans to their feet by crushing a home run to straightaway center.
The Cougars created the final margin in the sixth. Alexa Vogler moved into scoring position on a walk and steal and came home on Madi Hobscheidt’s single to left.
Svanda helped CHS by reaching on one error and one single. She finished the night with one run and one RBI. Ruffner tallied one single, one walk, one run and one RBI, and Simpson generated one single, one walk and one run.
Wagner had one ground-rule double, Hobscheidt posted one RBI single and Hardesty tallied one single, one run and one RBI. Bri Poteet reached once on an error, Alexa Vogler walked and scored once and Hannah Vogler had one sacrifice bunt.
It was the final prep softball game for Hardesty, Hobscheidt, Poteet, Ruffner, Simpson, Svanda and Wagner. The seven seniors finished their four-year careers with a record of 93-30 and earned multiple tournament championships. Harvey said they all showcased leadership, hustle, determination, compassion, strength and joy while wearing CHS uniforms.
“They’ve left a legacy here that is going to be remembered for a really long time,” Harvey said. “They’re all great kids. They worked so hard in practice and they were willing to help all of their teammates with anything they needed. They’re an amazing group.”
Auburn 000 134 0 – 8 9 2
Conestoga 001 121 0 – 5 6 3