Softball | Aurora rallies but is eliminated by West Branch in Division II district

Mike Brown
McKennah Metzger homered for Aurora in Tuesday's Division II district semifinal softball game against West Branch.

JEFFERSON — Third-seeded Aurora fell behind 4-0 but had an impressive comeback that fell just short in a 5-3 Division II district semifinal softball loss to third-seeded West Branch Tuesday at the Havens Baseball-Softball Complex.

Despite the setback, the Greenmen concluded an outstanding season in which they finished 19-8 and won the Suburban League American Division championship.

Aurora coach Sam Petrash knows his team will be very strong again next season.

“We’re young, I have everybody coming back except one girl,” he said, “and a lot of our girls haven’t seen anything like this before in games — the little things matter. There were a couple of times where we didn’t execute and they executed when they had to, and those are deal-breakers right there.”

Leading the Aurora offense was McKennah Metzger (home run), Maddie Zdanowicz (single, RBI), Maggie McVicker (double), Mackenzie Krafcik (double) and Shannon Morris (single).

West Branch used the talented left arm of pitcher Jordan Anderson and added some timely hits and bunts to oust Aurora.

The win vaults the Warriors (22-7) into Wednesday’s Division II district championship game against sixth-seeded Field at 6 p.m. in Jefferson. Field upended fourth-seeded Poland 9-2 in the other district semi Tuesday to advance.

Anderson, headed to George Mason University, struck out nine and walked just one in gaining the complete-game win. She allowed just five hits against a talented Greenmen lineup.

“It was a great win,” said West Branch head coach Sis Woods. “Again Jordan pitched well  and we laid some bunts down that we capitalized on and we were able to move runners and get timely hits.”

Krafcik was Aurora's starting pitcher and worked the first 3⅓ innings while surrendering four runs and sustained the loss. Metzger worked the final 3⅔ innings in relief.

West Branch had 10 hits and two key bunts that aided its win.

Leading the Warriors was Jaci Thomas (three singles), Anderson (double and three RBIs), Sydney Mercer (two singles), Sam Morris (single, RBI), Madi Rhome (single) and Ryley Pittman (single) and Tori McKay (single).

West Branch struck first in the top of the third frame. Rhome opened with a single to right and Thomas reached base on an error and both scored on a ringing two-RBI double to center by Anderson.

West Branch went up 4-0 in the fourth inning as Pittman singled and McKay had a bunt single. Morgan Loudon moved the runners up on a sacrifice bunt and Thomas hit a bloop single to left, giving the Warriors a 3-0 advantage. Metzger came into pitch for Aurora at that point and Anderson added an RBI ground ball out to make it 4-0.

“We had some sacrifice bunts that were huge,” said Woods.

“When you don’t get a bunt down with a runner on third and one out and you can’t push that run across and then they got one down and pushed one across, that makes the difference,” said Petrash.

Aurora answered in the bottom of the fourth and cut the Warriors’ lead in half. McVicker hit a double to left field and following a fly ball out by the next batter, Morris stepped to the plate and had a bunt single in which West Branch had a defensive miscue on the throw, allowing the baserunner to scamper home and cut the deficit to 4-1. Zdanowicz then ripped an RBI single to left, plating another run as the Greenmen trailed 4-2.

Aurora made things interesting in the bottom of the sixth when Metzger sent a West Branch pitch high over the right-center fence for a home run. The towering drive hit a parked truck beyond the outfield fence, as the Greenmen pulled within 4-3.

But in the top of the seventh, West Branch added an insurance run when Mercer singled and stole second and Morris punched a single through the middle of the infield, scoring the baserunner and giving the Warriors a 5-3 advantage.

“Congratulations to West Branch, they did a nice job and executed when they had to and we came up short on a couple plays at our end and that was the difference,” said Petrash.