Bria Romine leads Woodstock North to first postseason softball win

WOODSTOCK – Woodstock North shortstop Bria Romine is one of the top players on her team, but coach Kristin Holzbauer kept telling the senior she wanted to see more.

"Bria is a dynamite player," Holzbauer said. "I've been begging of her to push just a little bit more because I think there is still some untapped potential in there, and today she proved me right."

Romine had a big day at the plate and an even better day in the field. Her contributions helped the Thunder (7-16) to their first regional win in program history, as the third-seeded Thunder defeated second-seeded Harvard, 13-3, in the Class 3A Woodstock North Regional semifinals Wednesday.

The win advances the Thunder to Saturday's regional final against top-seeded Wauconda.

Woodstock North struck first in the top half of the first inning. The first two hitters were retired on pop outs before Paige Busch reached safely on a single and scored when Romine hit a double to left field.

Harvard (6-15) answered in the bottom half with three runs with help from the Thunder. Pitcher Rebecca Einspahr allowed three walks, and the defense committed two errors in the first. When the Thunder got out of the inning, Holzbauer held a huddle outside the dugout and calmed the nerves.

"It was just a matter of us focusing more," Holzbauer said. "When you're pushed to the limit and your backs are against the wall you make a conscious decision to step up and play that much better or to continue playing the way you're doing.

"They didn't want to be done yet."

The Thunder bounced back in the top of the second with four runs to take a 5-3 lead. Einspahr, with the help of a detailed scouting report from Holzbauer on the Hornets hitters, zeroed in on key spots she wanted to exploit and allowed just two hits and three unearned runs with three strikeouts.

The Hornets easily could have had at least five hits, but Romine's defense often left hitters shaking their heads as they returned to the dugout. Multiple times she dived in the hole at short and threw out runners, and other times she charged slowly hit balls and used her strong arm to record tough outs.

"Bria made some wonderful plays at short," Harvard coach Rick Cartwright said. "She was definitely on. If I had to give an MVP award, it would've been to her for sure."

At the plate, Romine went 2 for 3 with two doubles and an RBI while drawing two walks off Harvard pitcher Randi Blazier.

"I thought to myself, 'You have to play it like your last,' and I tried to play with as much heart as I could," Romine said.

The Thunder offense scored in each inning and looked like a team ready to build off the dominant win.

"No regrets. That was our motto today," Holzbauer said. "We're fired up and ready to play [Wauconda]."

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