UNION TWP. | The defending 2A state champions were not going to go down without a fight.
That fight however, proved to be too little, too late.
Wheeler lost 7-6 to Bishop Noll after mounting a four-run rally in the seventh inning, and had runners on first and second base when the final out of the game was recorded, giving the Warriors the sectional semifinal win.
Bishop Noll coach Ralph Laramie said he was not surprised by Wheeler's late comeback.
"They're not going to give up," he said. "They're the defending state champs."
Warriors junior pitcher Vanessa Hartzell was cruising through the first six innings, allowing two runs and a pair of hits.
But the Bearcats, who were the visiting team despite playing on their home field due to the sectional draw, started the seventh inning strong with back-to-back singles by seniors Sabrina Roldan and Jennifer Steele.
Amber Anderson followed with a fly ball to right field that hit off the glove of Bishop Noll outfielder Vicky Papach and scored Roldan. Wheeler senior Meghan Zappia followed with an RBI single, and suddenly Wheeler was down only three.
Junior third baseman Mari Medina added to the rally with a one-out RBI single of her own, and senior pitcher Emily Bisch followed one batter later with a two-out RBI single to bring the Bearcats within a run.
But that would be as close as Wheeler would get, as Hartzell induced senior outfielder Caitlin Herzog into a popout to end the game.
"They never quit playing," Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. "We're a young group, and we lost a lot of kids to graduation, but we have five seniors and they had big hits in (the seventh) inning. They were a fun group to have, and I'm going to miss those seniors a lot."
He added that Bisch and Herzog were the perfect players to have up at the end of the game.
"Emily and Caitlin are the two kids I want up in that situation," he said. "They're state champions. Caitlin has been a great player for four years for us."
Hartzell finished the game with nine strikeouts for Bishop Noll in a complete game win.
The Warriors got off to a hot start, scoring three runs in the first inning and a pair of runs in the second. They scored what would prove to be two more crucial runs in the fourth.
Bishop Noll will play Hanover Central this morning at 10:30 a.m. in sectional championship game.
"(Hanover Central coach Larry McMillen) has a good team," Laramie said. "They'll come to play. In the regular season we beat them, but that means nothing now. It's one and done now."