The Journal Gazette
Thursday, May 12, 2022 1:00 am

Leo 4 Columbia City 1

Lions end Eagles' perfect season

Secure share of NE8 softball title in process

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

COLUMBIA CITY – Leo handed Columbia City its first loss and clinched a share of the Northeast 8 title along the way in a 4-1 win over the Eagles on Wednesday at Columbia City in a matchup of the conference's softball elite.

Leo junior Sydney Tackett went 3 for 4 and lined a go-ahead two-run single to left in the top of the seventh. Fellow junior Ellie Sauder notched a complete-game victory, striking out seven and giving up just three hits and an unearned run.

“Columbia City is a great team, we look forward to playing them every single year,” Sauder said. “Their pitcher (Natalie Haselby) is amazing and their bats are awesome. It was just great to just go out there and give it our all and play the best we could.”

With the game deadlocked at 1-1, Leo's Makena Markle started the seventh with a single off Haselby, who had not given up a hit since the fourth. Anna Woods followed with a pinch-hit slap single to left when the Eagles (17-1, 5-1 Northeast 8) thought she would bunt.

Two batters later, with runners on second and third, Tackett turned in the biggest hit of the game and ended up on third after an error in the outfield.

“I was just trying to score the runners,” Tackett said. “I didn't want a big hit, I just wanted to move them in some way. I was trying to get it to the right side, which didn't happen, but it worked.”

The Lions' dugout erupted as Tackett slid into third.

“Oh my gosh, it was insane, I was jumping up and down,” Sauder said. “She definitely deserved that.”

Leah May knocked in Tackett with a groundout, giving Sauder a three-run cushion for the bottom of the seventh. One would have been plenty as the right-hander struck out all three batters she faced to seal it.

Sauder fanned four of the last five hitters she faced. She noted her riseball was particularly effective and gave the credit for her performance to Markle, her battery mate.

“Ellie was great,” Leo coach Ben Shappell said. “For her to hit those spots when we needed her to and that last inning, to pitch a whole game and come in in the seventh and still be able to hit all your spots, that tells a lot about the work she did in the offseason.”

The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the third when, with the bases loaded, Brooke Lickey ripped a first-pitch line drive to third that Eden Roberts couldn't quite handle. Columbia City nearly extended its lead, but May made a nifty sprawling catch on a fading line drive to short, cradling the ball with both hands as she went to the ground, stranding three runners.

Markle evened the score for the Lions (18-1, 6-0) in the fourth with a hard single to right that scored Roberts. 

Leo can clinch a second straight outright NE8 title with a win over DeKalb at home Monday.

“We lost four seniors last year and we only have two seniors this year,” Shappell said. “So for these juniors especially to step up ... really says a lot for the seniors last year, being able to teach them and just these girls stepping up and playing the role we ask them to play.”

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