Last year's state qualifiers, Boardman and Poland, needed eight innings to decide matters.
By MARK W. MILLER
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
POLAND -- It was a game where one opportunity was taken advantage of and another was nullified by an interference call.
The Boardman High softball team produced the big break it needed in the top of the eighth inning Thursday to post a 1-0 victory over Poland at the Poland Community Association Baseball Complex.
With one out in the eighth, Meghan Hovanic singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Krysta Sylvester reached base on an error, with Hovanic taking third and Sylvester second.
With two outs, Mary McCabe hit a solid single to drive in Hovanic with the deciding run for the Spartans (19-4), ranked first in this week's Division I coaches poll.
"We had to take advantage of our chances because Poland is a great team," said Boardman coach Bill Amero of the Bulldogs, ranked second in Div. II.
About McCabe, Amero said, "She's the person you want in that situation because she's a contact hitter that hits the ball hard, and she came through for us."
In the fifth inning, Poland had a chance to score with the bases loaded. With one out, a fly ball to center field was caught.
The Poland baserunner at third tagged and ran as the ball was thrown home. But the Bulldogs' bat girl, thinking the play had ended, came out in front of the plate to pick up the bat. Interference was charged, the ball was ruled dead and the runner was sent back to third.
Making the plays
There were some exceptional defensive plays by both teams throughout the game.
In the sixth inning, with Boardman runners at second and third, Poland center-fielder Emily Patton caught a fly ball and threw out Sylvester trying to score from third.
"Did you see that crowd for a regular season game?" Poland coach Reid Lamport said. "It was as if they were there for [a] tournament."
The game was a pitchers' duel between Jennifer Pancake (8-2) of Boardman and Sarah Knill (8-4) of Poland.
Knill allowed five hits and struck out two, while Pancake fired a three-hitter and struck out four.
"Pancake has pitched some big games for us in the past two weeks," Amero said. "She stepped it up. Her location was good, with a fastball, drop and curve ball.
"These are the types of game we need as she gets ready for the tournament," Amero said.
Lamport said, "Both teams made some great defensive plays.
"Let me take my hat off to both pitchers -- it was excellent pitching. We hope to make this an annual game."