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District 29 softball tournament: OC's Smith throws no-hitter in 8-1 tourney win over Trimble

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Lady Colonels set up rematch with North for district title

By Elliott Pratt

 GOSHEN — The stage is set for the rematch.

The last time Kirsten Smith pitched on North Oldham’s field, she allowed four runs in what was seemingly the beginning of rough second half of the regular season for the Lady Colonels. It was the first time OC had lost to North in five years and the Lady Colonels dropped five of their last nine games following that district loss.

In her return to Goshen in the District 29 tournament Tuesday night, Smith was untouchable.

The junior ace tossed a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 8-1 semifinal victory over Trimble County that sets up a rematch with North for the district title Thursday night at 5:30 p.m.

The Lady Colonels (20-15) used an explosive sixth inning where they scored seven runs to pull away in what was a one-run contest until that point.

Between that inning and Smith’s performance, coach Steve Leanhart is confident his team is out of the late season funk. OC showed signs of reemergence during the year with a home shutout win over No. 10 Mercy, but ended the regular season with a 15-3 run ruled loss at No. 4 Male.

“We played some real tough teams there at the end with some tournaments back-to-back,” Leanhart said. “We played Male and Ballard at the end and the girls were tired. This past week, they were practicing really well and we were pumped about the postseason. We’re back on track.”

Smith had a perfect game until the seventh inning when she walked Kayla Baker in the leadoff. On Baker's attempt to steal third, catcher Whitney Leanhart made an errant throw down the line to allow Baker to score, breaking up the shutout.

“I wanted that perfect game,” Smith said. “But I knew we had it so it was okay. We really practiced hard and focused on what we needed to do to get through districts and into the regional.”

OC didn’t get on the board until the fourth inning despite two hits earlier with a single from Taylor Sheller in the second and a deep triple to right field from AJ Davidson in the third.

Trimble County pitcher Michaela Roberts waked Delany Sowell to lead off the fourth and allowed Smith to lift a single to left field before Sheller pulled through with a RBI hit to score courtesy runner Emily Lindell.

OC loaded the bases with a Breann Crouch-Edgar bunt, but Roberts worked out of the jam to trail by only one run into the fifth inning.

The Lady Colonels poured it on in the sixth.

Smith led off with a double and Sheller followed with a single before Roberts walked Crouch-Edgar to load the bases yet again with no outs.

Britney Ryan put down a well-placed bunt on the inside the first base line to score courtesy runner Allie Williams for the insurance run. Trimble County (13-12) walked two more runners home before Payton Hamm and Whitney Leanhart put together back-to-back RBIs.

OC worked the lineup back to Smith, who capped the scoring with a two-run single.

Leanhart admitted he thought his team would pull out the win all along, but said he was a bit worried until the sixth inning.

“We were hitting the ball good, but we were hitting right to them,” Leanhart said. “Their corners stayed back and we started putting the bunt down and it worked. That helped a lot and when we started getting a couple of runs in they were more relaxed.”

Thursday night’s rematch with North comes after the Lady Mustangs beat South Oldham 13-2 in five innings on Monday. Leanhart knows that North’s confidence from a strong regular season has prepared them for any hand that tournament play may deal. 

“North is playing real well,” Leanhart said. “They’ve done a lot better this year than they have the past few years. They beat us last time but we need to play strong in that game. We have to be ready.”