Brooke Nelson of Ridgemont loses her helmet after Fort Recovery High?School shortstop Chloey Grisez tagged her out in the sixth inning of Monday’s sectional semifinal game. Nelson was trying to stretch her fly-ball single into a double, but Tribe second baseman Cali Wendel threw her out from shallow right field. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Brooke Nelson of Ridgemont loses her helmet after Fort Recovery High?School shortstop Chloey Grisez tagged her out in the sixth inning of Monday’s sectional semifinal game. Nelson was trying to stretch her fly-ball single into a double, but Tribe second baseman Cali Wendel threw her out from shallow right field. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
FORT RECOVERY — The Indians had not been on the field in a week.

A late arrival by their opponent pushed their sectional semifinal start time back by about 40 minutes.

When they finally got on the field, they were ready.

Jackie Homan sat down the Ridgemont Golden Gophers in order in the first inning and Emma Will’s bunt single to lead off the bottom of the frame started a streak of seven consecutive batters reaching base.

Fort Recovery High School’s softball team jumped out to a 3-0 lead Monday and stayed in control throughout an 8-2 victory over Ridgemont to earn a sectional championship berth.

“It wasn’t just being off for a week, it was then we get out here and they push the game back,” said FRHS coach Ryan Thien, whose team hung out around the dugout waiting for Ridgemont to arrive. “I did not know what to expect. …

“They were loose. But sometimes when we play loose we play good and sometimes when we play loose we don’t play so good.

“I’m real proud of the girls, just their dedication to it this week.”

The fourth-seeded Tribe advances to host Thursday’s sectional championship game against Marion Local. The No. 7 seed Flyers blanked fifth-seeded St. Henry 4-0 in their sectional semifinal game Monday.

Because of inclement weather that canceled a visit to Versailles, a home game against New Bremen and the Strikeout of Cancer Tournament at Coldwater, the Indians had not played since their 11-0 loss to Arcanum a week earlier. They had not won a game since their 16-1 clobbering of Jackson Center on April 23.

But after the quick top of the first inning, Will dropped a bunt down the third base line and sprinted to beat out the throw from third baseman Whitney Bailey by half a step. Chloey Grisez followed with a single to center field.

After a Sophie Pearson grounder led to Will being retired at third base, Homan singled to right field and Grisez came around to score on an errant throw. Maddie Guggenbiller then smacked a two-run single to center that gave the Indians the only runs they would need.

“I was very proud of them after the first inning because generally it’s hard to come up off that when you’re down,” said Ridgemont coach Kim Bailey, whose team lost 11-2 to FRHS in last season’s sectional opener. “They pulled it together and defense looked good the second inning on. I just wish it would have started out that way.”

Ridgemont (9-8) would come up with single tallies in the second and fourth innings, but Homan silenced them otherwise. She retired the side in order in the odd-numbered innings and got some help on a 4-6 putout from shallow right field when Brooke Nelson tried to stretch a leadoff single into a double.

Meanwhile, Ava Grisez singled, stole second base, advanced to third on a ground out and took home on a dropped third strike in the second inning. A couple of walks and a Cali Wendel single led to two runs for the Tribe in the third and Wendel singled and scored in the sixth before Chloey Grisez provided the exclamation point. The shortstop obliterated a pitch from Ridgemont’s Hallie Howard, smashing a no-doubt home run just to the left of the Tribe fans sitting on the hill beyond the fence in left-center field.

“Chloey Grisez, she came up big tonight,” said Thien. “She had … a big home run to kind of seal the game for us there at the end.”

Grisez finished 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI while Guggenbiller was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run.

Wendel also finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run.

“We’ve been working with her on her swing, just kind of hitting right back up the middle, just to cut down on the strikeouts,” said Thien. “I’m really glad to see her bouncing back after that first one. She hit two line drives right back up the middle.”

Homan, who handled the last out on her own on a bouncer back up the middle, went the distance while striking out two and not allowing a walk. Only one of the two runs against her was earned.

Fort Recovery’s last sectional title came in 2018 with a 10-2 win over Perry. The Indians lost 9-2 to Lincolnview last season and 8-6 in 2019 to Marion Local, both in sectional title games. (The 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.)

The Tribe is hoping to end that drought Thursday, having edged Marion Local 6-5 in their Midwest Athletic Conference meeting April 19.

“Our approach is going to be just to try to lay off that rise ball … play small ball again and hope our pitchers can come through and the defense can hold them to a low-scoring game,” said Thien. “I don’t foresee it being a high-scoring game.”