BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — Danielle Schriner might be a recent Maumee graduate, but she wasn’t ready to leave her high school softball career behind just yet.
Schriner broke open a tie game in last week’s Division II district championship with a three-run home run to right field, leading the Panthers to a 6-5 win over Otsego for their first district title since 2016.
Maumee was scheduled to face Ontario on Wednesday at New Riegel in a Division II regional semifinal. The winner advances to the regional championship at noon on Saturday against either Bryan or Tallmadge.
Schriner wasn’t the only Maumee player to go yard in the win. Junior Lilly Duling hit a solo shot in the fourth inning, as the Panthers clawed back into the game with a three-run inning for a 3-3 tie game.
In three tournament games, Schriner and Duling combined to go 8-for-20 (.400) with six runs and seven RBI.
“They’ve been huge,” said Maumee coach Brian Jones. “They both have come up big in the last couple of weeks and in the tournament.”
As they’ve shown all year, the Panthers can rally from early holes.
They went down early against the Knights, trailing 3-0 after the first two innings of the championship game. Three nights earlier in the semifinal, Maumee fell behind top-seeded Lake, 2-0, through five innings before a four-run sixth propelled the Panthers to a 4-2 win.
“There’s still stress,” Jones said of the early holes. “These are great teams we are playing with great coaches, but we as coaches feel confident in all our hitters 1 through 9 to get on base and start a little rally.”
Maumee got strong contributions up and down the lineup in the district games. Freshman Taylor Smith went 3-for-4 with a run and two doubles in the win over Lake, while Katie Rapp – a late-season call-up from the junior varsity team – drove in two runs.
In the win over Otsego, freshman Autumn Gugger was 3-for-4.
Freshman pitcher Hannah Ruiz picked up complete-game wins in both district games. She had a 1.50 ERA after allowing just three earned runs in 14 innings with seven hits and 12 walks while striking out 19 batters. Of 224 pitches she threw last week, 126 went for strikes (56 percent).
After a 10-0 loss to Anthony Wayne in a regular-season Northern Lakes League game, the Panthers stand with a 13-15 record entering the Division II regional tournament.
It’s not often a team with a losing record can advance so far in the tournament, but the gauntlet Maumee faced in the regular season not only created some losses but also a tested team that was primed for a long march in May.
“It makes us stronger by playing stronger teams,” Jones said. “Not just the NLL, but even a tough non-league schedule with Central Catholic, St. Ursula and Oak Harbor helped us get better.”
Schriner was one of five seniors to walk across the stage and graduate from Maumee High School last weekend. Combine that with the upcoming summer break and it can all add up to players and teams with one foot out the door.
For Jones and the Panthers, though, there’s not many worries about the Panthers not being ready for Ontario.
“It is just getting them to remember it’s about having fun and making memories,” Jones said. “And I think the difference, as I have always said, is player-led teams will always be more successful than a coach-led team.
“These seniors are leading the way and playing with a lot of heart. The rest of team is joining and these girls are playing with heart and passion.”