Marissa Bartholomew's one-hitter and Boardman's 13 hits shattered Mineral Ridge.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- The Mineral Ridge High softball team and pitcher Ashley Ault both were undefeated with 15 wins this season entering Friday's big match-up against Boardman and its mound ace, Marissa Bartholomew.
For the first three innings, Ault and Bartholomew were locked in a hitless and scoreless mound duel at Field of Dreams.
But the Spartans' offense finally began solving Ault in the fourth inning with two runs, and then added five more each in the fifth and sixth innings, to roll to a 12-0 win to climb to an 18-3 record.
Boardman, ranked No. 2 in the state in Division I, wound up with 13 hits to shatter Ault's and the Rams' undefeated streaks. Ridge is ranked No. 9 in the state in Div. IV.
In great form: Bartholomew finished with a one-hitter with nine strikeouts to improve to 13-2. The lone hit off her was by Tiffany Hack on a clean, line-drive single to left in the fourth inning.
The Spartans' attack was led by Jaclyn Corroto and Jennifer Feret, each with a pair of doubles and two RBIs; and also Bartholomew with a double, single and two RBIs.
But actually a bunt and a throwing error opened the gates for Boardman in the fourth inning. Jennifer Pancake bunted with the bases loaded, but Ault threw wildly to first base enabling Bartholomew and Feret to score and break the scoreless deadlock.
"Bunting kind of got us going, and then the batters took over," said Boardman's fifth-year coach, Bill Amero, who credited team speed for helping with the win. "We capitalized on team speed [with our bunts]."
Mary McCabe contributed two bunt singles, both of them following singles by Audrey Martinko. And Leann Neiman also bunted in a run on a sacrifice.
Has riser pitch: Amero, who guided Boardman into a regional final in 1999 and the state title game in 2000, said Bartholomew was very effective on the mound by mixing up her fastball, riser and drop.
"Her drop was real effective tonight," said Amero. And, "Her riser ball is the same speed as her fastball, and it just rises [at the plate]. She had good command of her pitches. They were biting for it [the riser]."
Amero also lauded Corroto and Bartholomew.
"She's [Corroto] a good hitter [and] only a freshman," said Amero. And, "Marissa came out of a slump. She had been a tough-luck hitter."
Sparked rallies: Corroto and Feret each had a two-run double in the fifth inning to spark the five-run surge, while Bartholomew rapped a two-run single to highlight the five-run sixth inning.
Amero said "timely hitting and timely bunting" were key factors in the victory.
Coach Gene Cheredar of Mineral Ridge said six errors helped to doom his team.
"Six errors are the most this year. The errors started their rally," said Cheredar, noting that his team got a strong start in the game, but then fizzled.
"We played five good innings, and then our wheels fell off. We made some mistakes and they capitalized on them."
Good pitcher: Cheredar gave credit to Bartholomew.
"She was a very good pitcher. She had a pretty good mix of pitches," said the coach. "She kept the batters off balance. We didn't swing the bat well today."
But, "It was good to play them."
Boardman will open sectional tournament play Monday against Warren Harding at Field of Dreams. The Spartans drew a first-round bye, so the game will be a sectional final.
Boardman already has clinched a tie for the Steel Valley Conference championship and can win it outright by beating Cardinal Mooney or Ursuline in upcoming contests.