By BOB ETTINGER

For the Star Beacon

CONNEAUT - Jefferson pitcher Kari Rouzer is so unaccustomed to hitting home runs she tried to stop running when she reached second base following a third-inning blast on Thursday.

After some prodding from her coaches and teammates, Rouzer continued her trot around the bases and led the Falcons past Conneaut, 4-0, in a Division II sectional semifinal at Skippon Park.

"That was awesome," Rouzer said. "That's the first home run I've ever hit. I didn't think it went over."

The Falcons (11-8) will play second-seeded Edgewood Thursday at the JAGS Complex for a sectional championship.

Rouzer, a sophomore, followed a two-out single by Courtney Francis, another sophomore, with a line drive over the fence in left-center that put Jefferson ahead, 3-0, in the home half of the third.

"Kari is just crushing the ball," Jefferson coach Paul Bodnar said. "That was huge because it allowed us to relax on defense. It also made Conneaut a little edgy."

"That was a big home run for them," Conneaut coach Mary Holdson said. "It was a high pitch and she just

nailed it."

Francis drove in the Falcons' first run in the first with a double to right. Junior Tara Aiman, who had reached on an error and stole second, scored on the play.

Junior Sara Febel scored Jefferson's final run on a wild pitch in the fourth. She had reached on an error and moved to third on a ground-rule double from sophomore Callie Busch.

Rouzer (8-2) tossed a complete-game four hitter for the win. She struck out five and walked two.

The Spartans (14-6) had several scoring opportunities erased with a combination of questionable baserunning and good defensive plays from the Falcons.

"Every time we got something going, they stopped it," Holdson said. "Every inning, we kept telling (the team) they could still do it, but we ran out of innings. When the other team is hitting, that adds to it, too."

"I put a couple of batters on base and (the defense) helped me out," Rouzer said. "They dug me out of a hole that I dug myself into."

The loss was the first of the season for freshman pitcher April Holdson (8-1). She allowed three runs on four hits and three errors. She struck out three.

"I'm disappointed," Mary Holdson said. "We're a much better defensive team than that."

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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