The Poland catcher led the Bulldogs past Richmond Edison to the state title game.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
ASHLAND -- As Poland High School senior catcher Suzanne Olesko knelt at home plate with her right shoulder throbbing in pain from a seventh-inning foul ball, the crowd at Brookside Park fell silent.
Within moments, she was back in her position to finish the game of her life.
Three batters later, the Bulldogs had successfully withstood a strong challenge from Richmond Edison for a 6-5 win Friday in the Division II state semifinal softball game.
Olesko bolted a half-dozen strides to wrap up Sarah Knill, as the rest of the Bulldogs converged on their pitcher.
Despite the pain, the injury didn't knock Olesko out of the game, just as many unusual occurrences didn't deny Poland's its first trip to the state softball championship game.
"I think I absolutely played the best game of my life," said Olesko, who will play for Mount Union College next year.
Her contributions: She was referring to her three hits including a double, one RBI, two runners picked off base and a strange steal of home in the sixth inning which finally swung the game in Poland's favor.
Bulldogs manager Reid Lamport used the term "goofy" to describe the game.
Poland principal Brian Wolf said it might have be the greatest softball win in school history.
"We're in uncharted waters for softball," Wolf said.
The Poland players weathered a rain delay that backed their game up four hours and a 13-hit attack by Edison (23-6) to play again.
Lima Bath next: Today at 5:30 p.m., Poland (25-6) will meet Lima Bath (26-3), which defeated Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan, 4-0.
"It's got to be something pretty resilient," Lamport said of his team's character. "Back and back and back and time and time again.
"It saw everything goofy happen that could ever happen."
The Wildcats, who had posted six straight shutouts, used two singles, two ground outs and throwing error to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Emily Patton doubled to straight away center with two out in the third, to drive in a pair and give Poland a 2-1 lead.
Knill (21-4) appeared to have worked her way out of one of many threatening situations in the last of the third inning, when Edison got a runner on third with two outs.
An infield fly-ball appeared to end the inning, but Knill was called for throwing her first illegal pitch of the season to score the base-runner and knot the game.
Bounced back: The Bulldogs responded when Olesko and Stephanie Russell hit back-to-back doubles for a 3-2 lead, and Jessica Lamport's fly-out made it 4-2 in the fourth.
Edison scored in the last of the fourth and drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth to tie the game, when Knill lost control of the ball on a full-count pitch.
"Sarah was down there for a little bit and we had to pick her up," Olesko said.
Despite not having her best stuff, Knill refused to quit.
"Today wasn't my best performance at all," Knill said. "But Olesko, she is a tough kid, my favorite. I love her."
Olesko led off the sixth with a single, and took second on Edison's fourth error of the day.
5-4 lead: Russell's infield hit, her second of the day, sent Olesko to third and a poor throw back to the pitcher allowed Olesko to score, making it 5-4.
"We're taught to never take our eyes off the ball while going back," Olesko said. "I didn't. I was going back to base and saw the ball get by her and I knew I could score."
Olesko singled home Katie Naumoff in the top of the seventh to make it 6-4.
Edison, which left five runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings, threatened in the seventh. The Wildcats scored once but couldn't bunch hits together to knock the Bulldogs out.