The Press Newspaper
Sami Michaelis was a freshman pitcher when she took the mound for Woodmore against Suburban Lakes League rival Elmwood three years ago.
Michaelis pitched five innings in that game as the Wildcats got shellacked 21-1. Woodmore's freshman softball class would go 0-for-8 against the Royals over a four-season span - until May 21.
In the biggest game of their lives, the Wildcats used the two-hit, 15-strikeout performance by Michaelis to shut out Elmwood 4-0 in a Division III district final in Bowling Green.
"That was very satisfying," said Michaelis, now a 5-7 senior and the Suburban Lakes League Player of the Year. "The fact that we were 0-and-8 against them, to finally get our first win against them in the district finals ... that was huge."
The victory propelled the 'Cats into Thursday's regional semifinals against Magnolia Sandy Valley in Ashland. The winner faces either New London or Archbold on Saturday for the chance to play in the state tournament.
Woodmore's last trip to the regional tournament was in 1998, under coach Mike Lee.
The Wildcats, who finished 9-5 (third) in the SLL this season, took an 18-8 record into the regional tournament. Second-year coach Aaron Clouse's team has won six of its last seven games.
Woodmore beat Rossford 12-3 and Genoa 8-5 in the sectional before squaring off against Elmwood in the district final.
"They had already beaten us twice, 5-4 - where we had the lead and kind of gave it back to them - and then they beat us 1-0," Clouse said. "The last time (Michaelis) pitched against them she had a quad injury and lost a lot of velocity. But, she figured out how to pitch to them that game. Without her good stuff, she hit her spots. She had a lot of confidence going into the district game."
Clouse called the win over the Royals "phenomenal - especially for the seniors." Michaelis' 15 strikeouts against Elmwood were two fewer than the season-high 17 batters she fanned against Otsego.
"You could tell they were so happy," Clouse said. "To get to regionals, it's like a mini-league tournament. If you get there, you have to get through Genoa and Elmwood, who know us so well. To get by them, the girls really pulled together."
Woodmore played nine games that were decided by one run, winning four.
"Even early in the year, (positions) one through nine I knew we were as solid as anybody," Clouse said. "We don't have anyone whose going to bat .500, but one through nine we have nine very tough outs. It seemed like every game someone new was stepping up."
The Wildcats lost the services of sophomore third baseman Bailey Ulinski prior to meeting Genoa in the sectional tournament. Ulinski was batting .338 with 13 runs scored and 22 stolen bases before she broke her ankle in practice.
"We lost our leadoff hitter and pretty much the heart of our defense," Clouse said. "We filled in with a freshman, Kalyn Tate, who had played the field sparingly all year, and she stepped up big. The way Bailey has stayed positive, she's like an extra coach now. She's not hanging her head. She's an extra coach in the dugout and a big reason we're still going."
Woodmore didn't have anyone hitting over .300 for most of the season. Instead, the Wildcats used their speed to move runners and then "hoped for those one or two timely hits," according to Clouse.
Michaelis, who bats No. 2 in the lineup, leads the 'Cats with a .346 average. She also has scored a team-high 14 runs. On the mound, Michaelis is 17-6 with a 0.90 ERA, with 277 strikeouts and 27 walks in 172 innings.
"She's a great kid and the prototypical softball player," Clouse said. "She lives for softball. I gave them the weekend off and it about killed her to not play softball for two days."
The Wildcats started five seniors - Michaelis, first baseman Kaylee Paul (.313, 9 RBI), catcher Emma Sullivan, right fielder Tiffany Keaton and center fielder Rachel Bouldin - against Magnolia Sandy Valley.
Michaelis said she would rather be playing in the regional tournament than to have won the SLL title.
"It's just so much more fun this way, where you have to have that extra edge and play your heart out or else the season's over," she said. "Winning the league is a gradual thing. The district final game was the most exciting game of my high school career. The postseason brings the team together. You see us bonding so much more than we did during the regular season.”
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