The Minster Wildcats waited until 2014 to win their first MAC softball title. The program now has four after winning a third straight championship following a 10-0, run-rule victory against Fort Recovery on Saturday.
Minster, OH – If senior Alayna Albers and her Minster Wildcats softball teammates needed additional inspiration in pursuit of the Midwest Athletic Conference title on Saturday afternoon, it came Friday evening.
The Minster boys and girls track teams both claimed MAC championships on Friday. On Saturday, it was the softball team’s turn.
The Wildcats had already clinched a share of the MAC title heading into the regular-season finale. But a loss to Fort Recovery on Saturday afternoon would have resulted in a three-way tie between Coldwater, Fort Recovery and Minster.
Minster treated the softball game like their own personal track meet. They circled the bases 10 times in six innings for a surprising run-rule victory to clinch the outright MAC championship on their home field.
“It feels really good to be up there with them,” Albers said of adding to Minster’s two-day haul of MAC titles.
Senior Rachael Hoying hurled a one-hitter and benefited from standout defense in the outfield. Hoying, who struck out two and walked one, allowed a legit single up the middle to Fort Recovery senior Brenna Homan to start the fourth inning.
Homan – who this season became the MAC’s all-time stolen base leader — was the Indians’ lone runner to reach base, doing it with her single in the fourth and a walk in the sixth.
The Indians made solid contact off Hoying with little to show for it. A half dozen balls landed a foot or two foul, including a rip in the fourth inning. With one out Jackie Homan sent a drive down the left-field line that cleared the fence … but several feet to the wrong side of the foul pole. She popped up to catcher Savannah Bergman on the next pitch.
When Fort Recovery did drive the ball to the outfield Minster chased it down. Left-fielder Lilly Barhorst, center-fielder Alexis Bishop and right-fielder Albers combined for seven putouts.
“When we first started the season our outfield looked rough,” Bishop said. “We had people in the outfield that hadn’t really been there much. We worked hard every day. We don’t take it lightly. I feel like the outfield deserves today. That’s what we’ve been working for all season.”
Added Minster coach Robb Hemmelgarn: “The outfield was definitely the MVP today. They came to play. We knew what Fort Recovery was going to bring. We’ve kind of watched their hitters the last few weeks. Their hitters did what their tendencies were and they made some big plays.”
The MAC title was Minster’s fourth overall and third straight. The Wildcats first MAC championship came in 2014. They still have a way to go before catching the track teams. The girls track team won its 31st MAC title and the boys their 16th. But it’s a good start.
“It feels like we claimed it. We kept our spot,” Bishop said. “That was our number one goal to come out here and win. It feels good leaving this field saying I helped contribute to winning the MAC.”
Minster (18-6) won the MAC at 6-1. Coldwater (18-7) finished 5-2 and Fort Recovery (16-10) 4-3.
“There’s a lot of great kids on this team. Great kids, great parents and great coaches,” Fort Recovery coach Ryan Thien said. “We’ve definitely turned the corner the last couple of years. I really thought this was going to be the team that put us on top. … Toward the end of the year we just didn’t see the ball real well at the plate. We were on fire at 10-2 and hitting the crap out of the ball. Then slowly, one by one, we started going into slumps.”
Fort Recovery was playing for its first MAC title since winning consecutive championships in 2004 and 2005. Players from Coldwater were also in attendance Saturday. showed up to watch. The Cavaliers have four MAC titles overall (2000, 2002, 2007, 2008).
“It’s something that isn’t just earned with these girls,” coach Hemmelgarn said. “It was earned from our team three or four years ago that build that culture. Now it’s an expectation. … It’s our last home game for our seniors, it’s our last regular-season game of the season. I said let’s make it a special day. A day you tell your kids about someday. The girls did that.”
Minster took control early with a decisive four-run first inning. The first four batters reached when Bergman was hit by a pitch and Lyndi Hemmelgarn singled on the first three pitches of the game. Hannah Oldiges smacked a two-run double and Bishop then reached on an error for the 3-0 lead. Mikaela Hoskins’ two-out RBI single made it 4-0.
The Wildcats sent 10 batters to the plate for three hits, a walk and a hit batter. Two more reached on error.
“I think it was the hype. We had some jitters going in,” Thien said. “That first inning we gave up a few baserunners and next thing you now it kind of steamrolled into something else. Four runs, I didn’t think that was the end of the world. I thought we could get back. Between their pitcher and their coaches having us played well we couldn’t find the holes in the gaps today.”
Minster added a run in the fourth. Barhorst walked and advanced to third on Bergman’s single. The Wildcats called a double steal. The Indians cut off the throw to second and tried to get Barhorst at home but it was too late.
Barhorst highlighted Minster’s game-clinching, five-run sixth, too. After Hoskins walked, Barhorst – the No. 9 hitter – homered to right-center field for the 7-0 lead. Bergman and Hemmelgarn both singled and Bishop drove them in with a single of her own. Kaycie Albers drove in the game’s final run with a drive down the left-field line to score Oldiges, who walked.
“The last inning was awesome. … Robb always says he doesn’t like to see the goose eggs, so it’s good we got five runs to finish the game,” Hoying said. “This year is really special. I feel like this team has a bond that no other team has that I’ve been on. We all get along. We hang out so much.”
The Wildcats aren’t done yet. Minster remains in the Division IV tournament and plays Parkway for the sectional title at Wapakoneta on Tuesday.
“You want to be the best. You don’t want to share it. Being outright feels great,” Alayna Albers said. “We wanted to go out and play like we had nothing to lose because we didn’t. It was about playing to our level today. I think we did that.”