OUT OF LUCK
Perry’s Diw knocks in six, including deflating sixth inning grand slam
By BRANDON HURLEY
With one swing of the bat, Perry shortstop Johanna Diw erased the upset hopes of the Greene County softball team Thursday night.
The junior, who was a perfect four-for-four on the night, blasted a massive, momentum shifting grand slam in the sixth inning, propelling 15th-ranked Perry to a 13-7 win over the Rams in the Class 4A Region seven first round matchup.
Diw was a thorn in Greene County’s side all night, as her cycle ( single, double, triple and home run) contributed to her six total RBI.
“She’s a really good player,” Greene County head coach Tom Kennedy said. “She’s quick, so you have to watch that. She has some pop. We couldn’t get her out and she did a good job of spraying it around on us. She’s a quality hitter and it was tough for us to get her out tonight.”
The Rams (16-14) wouldn’t let Thursday’s tough outcome take away from their overall play against a ranked 4A opponent on a pressure packed stage.
“It was a crazy good performance,” Koch said. “We hit her (Perry pitcher Emma Olejniczak) so much better tonight and it was incredible. I’m really proud of everybody, especially the younger ones.”
The two squads combined for 21 hits Thursday, a drastic change from the June 7 matchup. Olejniczak (21-10) no-hit the Rams in the Bluejays’ 9-0 victory, striking out 10 and allowing no runs.
“Overall, our effort and attitude were great,” senior lead-off hitter Carleigh Paup said. “Going from having no hits at all to 11 hits (tonight), that’s great improvement. We had been practicing with (Olejniczak’s) speed and I think it helped us a lot.”
The Rams got to Olejniczark early in Thursday’s rematch, scattering two hits in the opening inning and 11 in all. They also pushed across seven runs, four alone in the fourth inning.
“We worked all week on her speed to get some better timing,” Kennedy said. “The girls had some good swings. She’s a good, quality pitcher but we couldn’t quite get it done and they are a good team. I hope (Perry) has a good run.”
The Bluejays (22-12) scored a single run in the first, then ran across two more on back-to-back doubles in the second. Junior Hannah Promes got the Rams on the board in the third with a two-out RBI double.
Diw’s RBI triple in the top of the fourth saw the Bluejays extend their lead to 6-1 as the Rams took their turn to bat in the bottom half of the inning.
Sophomore Megan Durbin opened the frame with a lead off walk. Senior Carleigh Paup walked a few batters later to load the bases with two outs. Freshman Megan Carey then beat out an infield single for an RBI, to cut Perry’s lead to 6-2 as senior Sydney Koch stepped to the plate.
Koch wouldn’t disappoint in her final game as a Ram, delivering a clutch, two-out, three-RBI double to cap a four-run fourth, closing the gap to one at 6-5.
“(I was telling my teammates) there’s still a lot more innings to go and you can’t give up,” Koch said. “Every time I went up to bat, I kept thinking ‘This could be it, this could be the end.’”
The Bluejays pushed across a run in the top of the fifth to take a 7-5 lead. Greene County would get it back to a single run one more time on Durbin’s fifth inning solo home run to right.
Perry continued the late-inning offense in the sixth, as Diw smacked her decisive grand slam as part of a six-run inning to give the Bluejays a 12-6 lead. That rally all but wrapped up the victory, though Paup did add a run to the Rams’ total with a solo shot of her own in the bottom of the sixth.
Every time Greene County made a run, Perry seemed to have an answer.
“We had a couple plays that we couldn’t make, but we had two errors and we will live with that. I thought we played pretty sound defensively. They just hit the ball hard. They were just better than us tonight,” Kennedy said.
The coach was impressed with how well his hitters attacked Perry’s ace Thursday. Until the seventh inning, Olejniczak had only struck out four batters. She set down the side in the final frame to get to seven total strikeouts. For the year, Olejniczak has mowed down 267 batters and lays claim to a 1.50 ERA.
“Even when we were down early, we were making contact,” Kennedy said. “We struck out against Olejniczak a lot last time. But we were hitting the ball hard and making contact. I thought we had a shot at coming back and they kept clawing. It’s a credit to the girls in how hard they worked. I’m really proud of them for that, we just came up a little short.
The Rams’ two seniors, Koch and Paup, both did their part to keep Greene County within striking distance. Paup was a vacuum at her third base position, throwing out several Bluejay batters.
The duo finished their careers with more than 100 wins, scattered more than 250 hits and led the Rams to back-to-back third place finishes at state (2014/2015).
“It’s a credit to how hard they’ve worked their whole careers,” Kennedy said. “They’ve taken extra batting practice, they work so hard. I’ve never had a couple of seniors that good. These are two quality kids and I’m really proud that I get to coach them.”
Thursday’s loss, unfortunately, closed the book on two storied careers.
“It’s been intense, awesome and fun,” Koch said.
“It’s been a lot of fun these last five years. We got to experience state,” Paup said. “What more can you ask?”
A strong core of younger players next summer will look to fill the void left by the two seniors.
Freshman Megan Carey is one of those athletes. She was four-for-four in Thursday’s game with an RBI and finished the season tied for the team lead in total hits (45) and second on the team in batting average (.429). Promes was on the mound Thursday and suffered the loss, but put forth an encouraging junior season, winning 13 games. Freshman Jenna Beyers and Durbin collected 28 and 24 hits respectively.
“I’m hoping that next year we can step it up a little bit, but we lose two quality seniors,” Kennedy said. “I’m proud of them and we are going to have to get better this offseason. I think we will only get better next year. I think that natural progression, as the kids get older, will be there.”