Monroe girls conquer Eaton, earn first sectional title since 2006

Monroe catcher Sarah Eschmeyer tags out Eaton’s Bailee Worley at home plate during their Division II sectional final Tuesday at Valley View’s Layman Field. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD
Monroe catcher Sarah Eschmeyer tags out Eaton’s Bailee Worley at home plate during their Division II sectional final Tuesday at Valley View’s Layman Field. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY E.L. HUBBARD

Credit: Hubbard

Credit: Hubbard

A championship season has been clinched, but Monroe High School’s softball team has no intention of stopping.

The Hornets claimed a Division II sectional title Tuesday by rolling past Eaton 10-2 at Valley View’s Layman Field, marking Monroe’s first such crown since 2006.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Hornets coach Tim Kellis said. “Last year we talked about getting a league title, which we got, and now getting through the sectional — those are two big steps for our program. I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. They were very determined today.”

Monroe was the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division runner-up behind Franklin this year and split with Eaton during the regular season.

Round 3 was dominated by the Hornets (16-6), who scored four times in the first inning and knocked Eagles pitcher Meghan Puckett out of the circle after just five batters.

“It was a tough loss when we played them last time at Eaton on their Senior Night,” Monroe junior catcher Sarah Eschmeyer said. “We needed this one. We knew we could beat them, so we were here and we were coming out swinging.”

Eschmeyer, Alexis Arnold and Mikayla Decker drove in two runs apiece for the third-seeded Hornets. Eschmeyer had two hits, while Decker launched a solo home run in the fifth.

Monroe will travel to West Carrollton at 5 p.m. on Friday to face Greenville for a district championship.

“This team is my family,” Eschmeyer said. “We’ve had a couple tough losses throughout the years, so getting this win is just big for us. It’s great. I can’t explain.”

Junior Hunter Salyers started the year as the Hornets’ No. 3 pitcher and has become their ace. She’s not overpowering, but she scattered eight hits and allowed just one earned run Tuesday.

“I practiced a lot to get here,” Salyers said. “My goal was just to try and help my team win as many games as they could.”

Monroe kept Eaton (17-8) down by turning a pair of momentum-killing double plays, 1-2-3 in the third inning and 6-2-3 in the fifth.

“It’s happened all year. We get bases loaded and can’t move ’em,” Eagles coach Maggie Neanen said. “Miscues on the bases, the double plays … I think those are probably the first times we’ve ever got into double plays like that. For it to happen here, it’s heartbreaking for the girls.”

Bailee Worley collected three hits for No. 4 seed Eaton, and Becca Mowen and Stacia Weathington notched RBIs. Sam Key, Ashley McNabb and Mackenzie Sawyer plated runs for the Hornets, and Dee Henry walked three times, got hit by a pitch and scored twice.

Eaton took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Mowen’s RBI single, but the Hornets roared back in the bottom of the inning.

Faith Hensley led off with a double, Eschmeyer bunted for a single, and Arnold’s RBI ground out tied the game. Key followed with a run-scoring double, and McNabb added an RBI triple. That was it for Puckett, who was replaced by Annika Gels.

“She earned the start. She got us this far,” Neanen said of Puckett, who came back to the circle to face two Hornets in the bottom of the sixth. “Unfortunately, they did time her up.”

Neanen felt her squad’s youth and inexperience in games of this magnitude played a role in Eaton’s shaky defensive performance.

“It was disappointing to go out that way,” Neanen said. “It’s going to leave a bitter taste in all of our mouths, but I’m proud of the girls for getting here.”

Salyers struck out two and walked one. The last 19 batters she faced put the ball in play.

“She spots her pitches, and we kind of try to play the defense to whatever pitch we’re calling,” Kellis said. “We know people are going to put it in play. We’ve just got to make plays. Whenever Hunter’s on the mound, she never shows emotion. She just keeps throwing.”

“I love catching her every time,” Eschmeyer said. “I love her drop curve. She’s just throwing it out there, and she was so confident as she was pitching. That’s all I want in a pitcher.”

Said Salyers, “It was good knowing that I had my defense behind me to help me get this win.”

Kellis, in his fourth season as the Hornets’ head coach, has been impressed by the way Monroe has bounced back from two losses to Franklin about a month ago.

“It hurt them really bad. They could’ve packed it in,” Kellis said. “But they got their sectional title, and now it’s on to districts.”

Eaton 100-100-0—2-8-3

Monroe 400-132-x—10-9-2

WP — Hunter Salyers (5-0); LP — Meghan Puckett (11-6); HR — M: Mikayla Decker. Records: E 17-8, M 16-6

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