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Lady Vikings follow script to state championship game

ASHLAND, Ohio - The game went as scripted, only Symmes Valley coach Jeff "Odie" Estep got to be the head writer.

Thursday's Division IV state semifinal softball showdown between Symmes Valley pitching ace Lori Harmon and Cortland Maplewood Lady Rockets Markie Pozzuto went just as expected.

Pitching was expected to dominate and it did as both pitchers fired three-hitters. But Symmes Valley took advantage of a Maplewood throwing error to score the winning run and beat the Lady Rockets 3-2.

With the win, Symmes Valley (28-4) will play unbeaten Convoy Crestview (22-0) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Brookside Park for the state championship.

"I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game. I didn't know how they would handle Harmon. I saw they weren't going to score a lot of runs against Harmon, but we had trouble getting runs against them," Estep said.

"I said it would come down to which team got the breaks, and we were fortunate to get a couple of breaks and we were able to capitalize. Both teams were pretty equal, we just managed to get the upper hand today."

Harmon struck out 10 batters as she ran her record to 20-2. Pozzuto (16-3) had 15 strikeouts and only one earned run in taking the loss.

"Lori was in the 62 to 64 (miles per hour) range and she was on target," Estep said. "Their pitcher threw the ball better than we were told. She was in the low 60s and she could locate it."

Maplewood dented home plate first with a run in the bottom of the first inning.

Brittney Spencer walked to start the inning and stole second base after Pozzuto struck out. Amber Sypert singled up the middle as Spencer came around to score.

Symmes Valley took a 2-1 lead with a

pair of runs in the third inning.

Kayla Justice walked to start the inning. After the next two batters struck out, Harmon singled to right-center sending Justice toward third base. Maplewood rightfielder Jamie Rumple bobbled the ball allowing Justice to score and Harmon to reach second base.

Lady Vikings catcher Megan Coomes then singled to right field scoring Harmon with the go-ahead run.

The Lady Rockets tied the game in the fourth inning.

Sypert doubled to right-center to open the inning and Brandy Dunbar went into the game as a pinch-runner. Meagan Rowbottom grounded out to third base, but Dunbar took third base on the throw to first base.

After Harmon struck out the next batter, Brandy Fleming singled to right field scoring Dunbar.

The Lady Vikings came right back to take the lead in the fifth inning with an unearned run.

Justice walked to lead off and Erin Martin singled to left-center. Harmon reached on a throwing error by Maplewood catcher Tori Spencer that allowed Justice to score.

Neither team threatened the rest of the game as Harmon retired 10 out of the last 11 batters she faced, allowing only a two-out walk to Rowbottom in the sixth inning.

Estep said the Lady Vikings need to improve their bunting in the title game against Crestview.

"The only thing we didn't do very well was execute our bunts. Defensively, we didn't have an error. We happened to get a couple of breaks."