BRYAN – Fourth-seeded Bryan out-slugged 5th-seeded Van Wert 8-5 in Friday’s Division II sectional final to advance to next Thursday’s district semifinal against top-seeded Napoleon. The Golden Bears are now 13-5, while the Lady Cougars’ season ends at 11-7.

The Cougs had a good first inning and a good sixth inning, but they held Bryan scoreless only in the fifth. Indicative of their offensive weapons, the Golden Bears had 12 hits and left 11 runners on base.

Van Wert started off well. Pitcher Laine Spoor started the game with a single through the left side. Second baseman Alexis Metz then struck out looking, but centerfielder Lauren Moore doubled to deep left to put runners on second and third. Catcher Katie Dickson drove in Spoor and Moore with a line single to right center, and things were looking promising for the Cougars at 2-0.

However, it would be a long time before the Cougars threatened again. Bryan righthander Kayla Altaffer then mastered the visitors with good location and a variety of speeds. Meanwhile, the Bears bounced right back to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first, then tacked on one run in each of the second, third, and fourth innings to lead 6-2. Five of those six runs scored after two were out.

Suddenly and surprisingly, Van Wert jumped right back into it with three runs in the top of the sixth. Moore led off by beating out a single to deep short. She then went all the way to third on a passed ball and scored when the throw to third went awry. After getting a reprieve when her foul popup was misplayed, Dickson blasted a double to the gap in right center.

Shortstop Katie Coplin bounced out to third, but first baseman Olivia Kline reached safely on a bunt, putting runners on the corners. A double steal plated Dickson and got Olivia Kline to second. Rightfielder Grace Spoor then went down swinging, but DP Drew Kennedy poked an opposite field single down the rightfield line to score Kline and get the Cougs within one. Leftfielder Grace Kline duplicated Kennedy’s hit, but Laine Spoor lined out to Altaffer to keep it at 6-5, Bryan.

Needing insurance, the Lady Bears got it with two unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth, stretching the lead to 8-5. Both of those runs came after two were out.

Although Metz, Moore, and Dickson all hit the ball hard in the top of the seventh, the Cougars went down 1-2-3 to see their season come to an end.

Laine Spoor (2 for 3, one run scored), Moore (2 for 4, including a double, two runs scored), Dickson (2 for 4, including a double, one run, two RBI), and Olivia Kline (2 for 3, including a double, one run scored) led the Van Wert offense.

It was a good year for Van Wert softball. The Cougars became only the second Van Wert team to win six WBL games, matching the 1993 team’s 6-3 league mark.

“I’m excited because it’s a step to the next level, I think,” said Steinecker. “They over-achieved in a lot of situations. They’ve fought, fought, fought, and never stopped fighting. They’ve done everthing we’ve asked them to do, and the season’s been awesome.”

It was the final high school game for Van Wert seniors Laine Spoor, Katie Dickson, and Grace Kline.

“I challenged all three of them this year, and they all three stepped up to the plate, led in different roles,” said Steinecker. “I told Katie that if she can keep the balls in front of her, we can keep ourselves in a lot of ball games, and she accepted that challenge. Hats off to Laine – only her second year of pitching, and she’s done a great job. She’s not gonna blow the ball by anybody, but she hits her spots, and she relies on her defense. That’s all I asked of her this year.”

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Van Wert (ab-r-h-rbi)

Laine Spoor p 3-1-2-0, Alexis Metz 2b 4-0-1-0, Lauren Moore cf 4-2-2-0, Katie Dickson c 4-1-2-2, Katie Coplin ss 3-0-0-0, Olivia Kline 1b 3-1-2-0, Grace Spoor rf 3-0-0-0, Drew Kennedy dp 3-0-1-1, Grace Kline lf 3-0-1-0, Reagan Priest 3b 0-0-0-0. Totals 30-5-11-3.

Bryan (ab-r-h-rbi)

Grace Voight ss 4-0-3-1, Kelly Miller c 4-1-0-0, Meggie Voight cf 3-3-2-1, Whitney Whetro 3b 3-1-0-0, Kaitlynn Antigo 1b 3-1-1-2, Kayla Altaffer p 4-0-1-1, Jadynn Cupp cr 0-0-0-0, Scout Smith 2b 3-1-1-0, Brittney O’Neill dp 3-0-2-0, Alex Vreeland pr 0-1-0-0, Kelsee Terrell rf 3-0-2-2, Hannah Macxy lf 0-0-0-0. Totals 30-8-12-6.

Errors – G. Kline, Coplin, Dickson, Moore, Miller 2, Metz. PB – Miller. DP – Smith to G. Voight. SB – M. Voight, Dickson, O. Kline. Sac Bunt – Antigo. Doubles – Moore, Dickson, O. Kline. Home Run – M. Voight. LOB – VW 5, B 11.

Van Wert 200 003 0 - 5 11 5

Bryan 311 102 x - 8 12 2

Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so)

L. Spoor (L) 6-12-8-5-5-1.

Altaffer (W) 7-11-5-3-1-5.

Pitches/Strikes – L. Spoor 117/71, Altaffer 96/68.