The Bulldogs, who play Richmond Edison in a state semifinal, posted a 2-0 win over that team April 14.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- Those southern trips that baseball and softball teams take during spring break have their advantages. For starters, the weather's usually better, which means more games.
For Poland's softball team, it was a trip out west to play four games against San Diego-area schools.
The April excursion helped strengthen the Bulldogs for a season that led to their first final four appearance in the state tournament.
However, the week before Poland went 2-2 against those California teams, it beat Richmond Edison on April 14 during a game at Poland.
That's the opponent for the Bulldogs (25-6) Friday in the Division II state semifinal at Brookside Park in Ashland.
Winner: Poland defeated Edison 2-0 in that game and pitcher Jessica Lamport struck out 13 batters.
Edison's record was 8-4 after that game, but the Wildcats have gone 15-1 since then.
"You're not going to get many runs against them," Poland coach Reid Lamport said. Edison is making its fourth state tournament appearance.
That win, plus victories over Struthers and Tallmadge in the district tournament, then Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in the regional, should give the Bulldogs a measure of confidence.
"It's important that we take advantage of any opportunities to score runs," Lamport said of Friday's game.
Coincidentally, Poland's last four wins were by scores of 4-0, 4-1, 4-0 and 4-1, respectively.
Earlier in the season, Poland also played Div. I Madison, Massillon Perry at the time it was ranked, Div. II Lexington and seven-time state champion Akron Springfield.
Improvement: Whether the games were in southern California or against Metro Athletic Conference teams, they helped to make the Bulldogs better.
"We try to play good, solid programs to make ourselves a better team," coach Lamport said.
"We thought that we were in the mix," he said of Poland's showing against the competition in San Diego. "We saw good talent down there, I think we came home a better team and I think we came back a closer team."
Struthers handed Poland its last loss 10 games ago.
The Bulldogs, 264-52 under Lamport in the last 12 years, have had teams that won more games, had higher team batting averages and scored more runs.
"These girls are team-oriented," said Lamport. "They enjoy the game and give everything they've got.
"They're over-achievers. We had to plug girls into positions and they responded as well as we could have hoped for."
Moved in: Specifically, Lamport was referring to shortstop Tiffany Fonagy, who took over after Kristy Gaudiose injured her knee during the basketball season.
Gaudiose was expected to move to shortstop after gaining all-conference honors at third base as a freshman.
With Fonagy taking over at short, Michelle Nespeca became the third baseman. Jessica Lamport was another new face in the infield at second, while Katie Naumoff and Jio Toppi filled the right field and left field spots, respectively.
"Anytime you've got to put five new defensive players in, it hurts early," Reid Lamport said. "But then they jelled."
Good offense: The Bulldogs are batting .353 as a team.
Timely hitting, great defense and awesome pitching is what makes the Bulldogs click, Reid Lamport said.
Lima Bath (25-3) and Bellefontaine Benjamin Logan (24-5) are the other semifinalists. Bath is the lone returnee at state from 2000 when it lost to eventual champion Conneaut. Walsh Jesuit eliminated Conneaut in the district championship this season.