Kaitlyn Justice of Ross takes a practice swing as she looks for a sign from coach Pat Spurlock on Tuesday during a Division II sectional softball game against visiting Wyoming. Ross won 17-4 in five innings. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Prep softball: Ross starts Division II postseason with offensive explosion

ROSS TWP. — Ross High School’s softball postseason began with a flurry of hits.

The Rams limped into the Division II sectional tournament with three straight losses, but brought out the bats Tuesday and piled up 20 hits in a 17-4 whipping of visiting Wyoming.

“When they score, they like to put them all in a single inning. We’ve done that five or six times this year,” Ross coach Pat Spurlock said after watching his crew erupt for 13 runs in the second inning. “Hopefully this gets us going again. We’ve changed up our hitting routine, and it seems to be working. We’re going to keep plugging and working hard.”

» PHOTOS: Rick Cassano’s 26-image gallery from Ross

Emily Poling and Ashley Shelton drove in four runs apiece for the fourth-seeded Rams (17-8) in the five-inning affair. Bailee Gunnell had three RBIs and Emilie Toney added two.

Ross resumes sectional play at home Thursday against Butler County rival and No. 5 seed Badin at 5 p.m. Badin rallied for a 6-5 victory in their first meeting April 6.

“We definitely have talked about it,” Ross senior shortstop Kaitlyn Justice said of getting another shot at Badin. “We’re ready for it.”

“We slipped up the first time against them,” Spurlock said. “They had no problem picking to play us in the second round, so I’m excited to see what happens.”

He expects to have his pitching ace, freshman Samantha Iannarino, available to throw Thursday. She’s been dealing with back problems and was limited to one at-bat (an RBI double) against Wyoming.

Madison Minges, Katilyn Patterson and Savannah Smith did the Rams’ pitching Tuesday, combining for a six-hitter with seven strikeouts.

Ross took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a run-scoring triple by Justice, who was 3-for-4. The hosts’ first 12 batters reached base in the second inning (11 hits, one player hit by a pitch).

Ashley Shelton of Ross throws to first baseman Bailee Gunnell (23) as pitcher Madison Minges (3) watches Tuesday during a Division II sectional softball game against visiting Wyoming. Ross won 17-4 in five innings. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

“That’s what the game is. Sometimes you throw it and they hit it and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Wyoming coach Jerry Campbell said. “They’re a very good hitting squad. They just did what they do.”

The 17 runs represented the third-highest offensive output by the Rams this season. They scored 13 total runs in their last three games, losses to Southwest Ohio Conference champion Little Miami (twice) and Talawanda.

“Losing three in a row was disappointing,” said Justice, who will play collegiately at Mount St. Joseph. “We’ve been hitting a lot more at practice because we didn’t really hit the last three games, and everybody hit well today. We didn’t know exactly how it would be, but we all expected to win.”

The second inning included four doubles, two by Shelton, who was 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly. The sophomore second baseman has been absent from the batting order for a number of games because of a broken thumb, and she was hurting again Tuesday when the ball hit her collarbone on a bad-hop grounder.

Toney collected three hits for the winners, and Poling and Whitley Arno both contributed two. Arno and Alexia Ploehs chipped in RBIs.

Naomi Evans went the distance in the circle for 10th-seeded Wyoming, the fourth-place team in the Cincinnati Hills League. The Cowboys (9-10) got two RBIs from Emma Galinger, two hits and an RBI from Shelby Fritz, and an RBI from Liana Morgal.

Madison Minges of Ross sprints toward first base as Wyoming catcher Emma Galinger picks up the ball Tuesday during a Division II sectional softball game in Ross Township. Ross won 17-4 in five innings. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

“Today was a building day,” said Campbell, whose roster is loaded with freshmen and sophomores. “We’re so young … we’re babies. Playing a team like Ross, we knew that we had to come in and play perfect and have some things go our way or it could get out of hand. They’re what we want to become.

“Being as young as we are, I’m thrilled with the season. They’ve improved dramatically since Day 1. If you would’ve told me before the season that we were going to be 9-10, I would’ve taken it in a minute. The future is going to be bright for Wyoming softball.”

Ross will try to wrap up third place in the SWOC on Wednesday when it travels to Talawanda to finish a suspended game. The Rams lead 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning.

Wyoming 001-30—4-6-0

Ross 1(13)1-2x—17-20-1

WP — Madison Minges (3-3); LP — Naomi Evans (9-10). Records: W 9-10, R 17-8

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