The Bulldogs will play in their first state semifinal game Friday in Ashland.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AKRON -- After qualifying for regional appearances in seven of the last 12 seasons, Poland High's softball team has earned its first trip to the state tournament.
"We expect to get to regionals, but we've never gotten over that regional hump," Poland coach Reid Lamport said. "Our girls have earned it. When you beat Tallmadge and Walsh [Jesuit] within a week's time, you deserve it."
Lamport didn't hide his pride Saturday after Poland's 4-1 victory over Walsh Jesuit (24-6) that put the Bulldogs (25-6) into the state's final four in Division II.
All of the scoring came in third inning at Firestone Stadium.
Junior Sarah Knill (20-4) gave up four hits while freshman Lorena Floccari (16-4) took the loss for the Warriors.
Right fielder Katie Naumoff had probably one of the biggest plays of the game when, with runners on second and third, she threw out Jessica Townsend at first base to end the third inning.
"We didn't give them a lot to get excited about," Lamport said of Walsh Jesuit, "but that inning ,they started getting excited over there. If Katie doesn't throw Townsend out, it's 4-2 with a runner on third and first, and anything's possible after that, so that was a huge out."
Naumoff also knocked in courtesy runner Steffi Graf from second base for the game's first run after Graf replaced Knill, who had singled. Graf advanced on Jio Toppi's sacrifice.
Naumoff, Knill and Emily Patton each had two singles while Heidi Kimmel and Suzanne Olesko had the other hits for Poland.
However, when the hit by Kimmel, a left-handed hitter, dropped behind the Walsh third baseman, it increased the Bulldogs' lead to 3-0.
Walsh Jesuit coach Larry Deeks took note of the moment.
"The games come down to this -- one person getting up at a certain time and getting the hit when they need it. It happened to be Poland today. They got the hit with two on.
"We weren't too concerned about the one run [for a 1-0 lead], but when they got the next hit with the two runs, they just hit it where they had to hit it and got the job done."
Kimmel was the receiver of Naumoff's throw from shallow right field.
"It's a play we work on a lot," Kimmel said. "It's a great play for softball. Katie made a great throw."
The throw by Naumoff, a sophomore, nailed Townsend who was sliding into first base. "I knew we needed the out.
"So when the ball came to me I knew it was either that or they score. I didn't even think I had her out, so I threw it as hard as I could and I was just so happy she was out."
Shortstop Tiffany Fonagy and second baseman Jessica Lamport were breathing a lot easier after their putout ended the fifth when Walsh Jesuit had two runners on.
Townsend's grounder that deflected off of Knill's glove was fielded by Fonagy, who threw to Lamport to get Mary Graber at second base.
"It was really close," Fonagy said. "I wasn't sure if the ump was going to give it to me or not."
Patton, a junior center fielder, made an extra-effort catch of Sarah Nairne's fly in the sixth.
"She made a shoestring catch of a ball that could have bounced," Lamport said. "She got a good jump on the ball because she's quick. She made it look a little easier than it was. It was one of the big plays we've been getting the last couple weeks."
Despite three errors, "our girls didn't get rattled," Coach Lamport said.
"Late in the game, Sarah kept them off balance a little bit. We threw probably 80 percent curveballs. We threw very few fastballs.
"Walsh wanted the ball inside. They're pull hitters and they're strong girls and we didn't give them that opportunity. If you put it anywhere in the middle or from the middle in, they're going to turn on it."