The Blue Devils jumped on ICL opponent Jackson-Milton for six runs early.
By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BERLIN CENTER -- Going in, the Inter-County League softball game looked like a classic pitchers duel -- Jackson-Milton's Corey Velk had thrown consecutive no-hitters and Jaclyn Speece of Western Reserve had a 0.45 earned run average.
Twenty hits, 11 runs and six walks later, Western Reserve had a 9-2 win over the Bluejays and the pitching battle was an afterthought. So much for trying to assess games in advance.
Playing on their home field, the Blue Devils (15-4, 10-3) ripped five hits in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead and increased it to 6-0 by the end of two.
"We hit real good today, especially against Velk because she has really been pitching well for them," Western Reserve first-year coach Joe Serensky said.
"We didn't hit her real well the last time, but this time we came prepared to hit."
Clinch second: The Blue Devils beat Jackson-Milton 3-1 earlier this year and clinched second place in the ICL with the decision.
"Everybody came through, hits up and down the lineup," said Serensky.
Speece doubled home the first run of the game, Tiffany Palumbo tripled in a run in the second and Stacy Coudriet smacked an RBI triple over the left fielder's head in the fifth to make it 8-0.
"Usually, those two are free swingers and they can get some gap shots," Serensky said of Palumbo and Coudriet.
Coudriet, who plays center field, claims to be 5-foot-3.
Although diminutive in stature, she used all her power to pull Velk's pitch well into deep left.
She credits loads of practice to developing the power.
"It's practicing a lot. It's working really hard."
Serensky gave her the stop sign at third, although thoughts of an inside-the-park home run raced through her head nearly as fast as her feet were running.
"I thought really hard about scoring," Coudriet said.
"She swings hard; sometimes I try to tell her too hard," Serensky said of Coudriet. "Especially with two strikes, she tries to hit home runs. But she makes connections."
Speece gets win: Speece has 11 wins in 13 decisions and spaced eight hits. She struck out eight and walked just two.
"She's been throwing the ball well all year," Serensky said of Speece. "Since her shoulder surgery last summer, she's worked hard and got her shoulder back in shape.
"She's still limited. She has to have her arm worked on all the time."
Kristen Kurth had three singles in her first three times to the plate for the Blue Devils and Ronda Barth scored three times.
"We have to come out in the first inning hard and when we get down in the first inning sometimes we shut down," Jackson-Milton coach Kelly Snowden said.
The Bluejays had won 11 of 13 starts going into the game.
"We've been playing much better," Snowden said.
Velk had thrown back-to-back no-hitters, including a 23-1 win over Southern Local in the tournament Thursday.
Western Reserve was ready for her, dropping down a timely sacrifice bunt early, stealing three bases in the early going and sending 17 hitters to the plate in the first two innings.
The Blue Devils have four losses, but three are by one run. A team learns something by all the close decisions.
"She can't be expected to do all the work," Snowden said of Velk. "She's throwing the ball well.
"We didn't support her tonight. We have to help her."
Velk and Jayne Fenton each had two singles for Jackson-Milton (11-9, 6-5).