WARREN - It's believed that bad things happen in threes, which played out to the disappointment of the Bristol Panthers softball team Tuesday.
With the Panthers and Mathews Mustangs locked in a scoreless tie and Mustangs pitcher Cheyenne Eggens and Panthers pitcher Ashlyn Slusher both on the top of their games, something had to give. Things gave in for the Panthers in the top of the sixth inning when they committed three errors that produced three unearned runs.
That was all Eggens needed as she pitched a one-hitter in the Mustangs' 3-0 win in a Division IV district final at Candlelite Knolls.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Mathews seniors, from left, Tabby Granelly, Jacki Rhine, Halle Oatridge, Hollie Shreves and Jessica Marisco, celebrate winning the Division IV district final on Tuesday. The Mustangs beat confernce-rival Bristol, 3-0, to advance to the regional semifinal.
"Anything can happen when you're playing your rival," Mustangs coach Jim Nicula said. "You put the ball in play, and they had to make plays. We took advantage of a few errors, ran the bases really smart and had a nice deep fly ball for an RBI and it all worked out well."
The Mustangs (22-7) claimed a fourth straight district championship and will play Cuyahoga Heights Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Kent State University in a regional semifinal. The Panthers bowed out with a 17-3 record.
Slusher, who allowed just two singles entering the sixth, retired pinch hitter Marisa Odell on a ground ball leading off. Jenna Siefert bounced a Slusher offering back to the pitcher, but the throw to first was dropped by second baseman Amanda McClellan, who was covering the bag. Slusher was then off the mark on a throw to first baseman Ally Jones on a grounder by Tabby Granelly, which allowed Siefert to advance to third.
A sacrifice fly by Maddie Williams scored Siefert. Jessica Marsico singled home Granelly, and a fielding error by center fielder Lindsey Elza allowed Marsico to score.
"They're not perfect," Panthers coach Debbie Rowles said. "They're kids. It was like yesterday (Monday against Maplewood). It's going to come down to who's going to make the errors or who's going to score. We made the errors, and they scored."
Eggens was in control throughout, allowing only a single by Megan Adams leading off the fourth inning. Eggens struck out 12 and didn't allow a walk.
"This whole season has been a battle between us," Eggens said in reference to the three games between the rivals. "We won, and then they won. This was our time. We had a good feeling when we woke up this morning. We came out and knew we had to focus and get ready and that it would be a tough game."
Eggens retired the first nine batters before Adams' hit. She then retired the final 12 batters.
"The team had my back, and I wanted to have their back," Eggens said. "They got runs for me to ensure me that if I didn't strike everyone out that it was okay."
Slusher struck out five and allowed two walks. The only batter that reached safely against her in the first four innings was Granelly, who led off the fourth with an infield single. Granelly was thrown out trying to steal second by catcher Kylie Stoneman.
Rowles headed home anxious for the beginning of next season. It helps knowing that Slusher is a freshman.
"We lose three seniors, but we have some girls coming up through the summer leagues that can fill their spots," Rowles said. "I'm looking forward to it."
The Mustangs had nine days at the end of the game to get prepared for the next step in the tournament process.
"We're going to enjoy the next nine days and relax and have a little fun and let it all soak in," Nicula said. "The seniors get to graduate on Thursday with an awesome feeling in their hearts of going to regional for a fourth straight time."