TIFFIN — Keystone flexed its muscle Sunday afternoon.
The top-ranked Wildcats jumped on Madison in the first and never relented in a run rule-shortened 12-2 win in the Division II regional championship game at Tiffin University’s Paradiso Athletic Fields.
Keystone (31-1) is headed to the Final Four for the 19th time in program history and will begin its quest for a fifth state title at 5:30 p.m. Friday against John Glenn in the Division II state semifinals at Akron’s Firestone Stadium. John Glenn is headed to the state semifinals for the first time in program history after a 4-3 win over Heath in the Pickerington regional final.
Madison finished its storybook run through the postseason with a record of 17-15. The Rams were in the regional final for the third time in program history.
“From where we were a month ago to where we are now, you’re never happy when you lose but, holy cow, did we make some progress,” veteran Madison coach Tim Niswander said. “We’ve only got two seniors. I just told the kids we need to go back and get to work and make sure we get back here again.
“Maybe next year is the time when we finally take that next step.”
The Wildcats struck for a run in the home half of the first on clean-up hitter Jess Gerhardinger’s sacrifice fly before plating two in the second on leadoff hitter Jessica Chapman’s two-run single to make it 3-0. Keystone took complete control in the third, sending seven hitters to the plate and scoring four runs for a 7-0 lead. Dana Pace, Delaney Peters and Morgan Modock all drove in runs in the inning.
Madison got on the board in the fourth when Bailey Lyons belted a two-run home run. It was Lyons’ sixth homer of the season.
Keystone added a run in the home half of the fourth and brought the game to an early end with four in the fifth.
“Hat’s off to Keystone. They’re the 13th-ranked team in America and we’re just a bunch of kids from the east side of Mansfield trying to keep our heads above water,” Niswander said. “That’s one thing I’ll always be proud of is the kids from our school who grew up on the same side of town as me who just keep showing up and getting better and battling and … represent us as well as they can.”