By Tom Williams
Canfield High softball pitcher Sarah Vrabel can’t say which she enjoyed more — a key first-inning strikeout or her third-inning two-run homer.
“That’s a tough question,” said Vrabel after leading the Cardinals to Thursday’s 12-0 victory over Hubbard in the Division II sectional final.
“Honestly, I can’t really say what’s more thrilling.”
Vrabel’s two-shot launched an eight-run at-bat for the Cardinals (19-5). She said she wasn’t certain the ball would clear the fence, but wasn’t surprised when it did.
“I felt like I made solid contact, my swing felt pretty fluid,” Vrabel said.
Kayley Keller connected for a RBI single and Rachel Tinkey had a two-run single as the Cards opened up a 10-0 lead.
“That gave me some options to get some of the young ones in and get some swings,” said Ray Melewski, Canfield’s first-year head coach. “It’s a good [tournament] start for us.”
Melewski moved Vrabel to first base and brought in junior Alexa Schmidt to pitch the fourth inning. An error and walk had the first two Eagles she faced on base, but Schmidt got out of the jam with a strikeout, flyout and ground out.
In the fifth inning, Melewski sent his senior ace back on the mound.
“For the seniors, it was their last time on our home field, so I wanted her to finish on the mound,” Melewski said.
In the four innings she pitched, Vrabel (14-4) struck out nine batters and walked two.
“She was solid,” senior catcher Laura Beck said. “She was throwing a lot of fastballs inside and out, so we were working the corners.”
The Eagles (9-16) threatened in the first inning when Julia Clemente and Amy Thomas singled. Vrabel snuffed the rally when she struck out Kiana Martinez.
In the fifth inning, the Eagles loaded the bases with an error and two walks. Vrabel recorded three more strikeouts to end the game.
“I’m glad I got to finish it because it was our last game [on this field],” Vrabel said.
Canfield jumped on Hubbard’s starter, Clemente, for two runs after Rachel Tinkey and Vrabel singled in the first inning. Tinkey scored on an error while courtesy runner Lyanne Whitehead came home when Beck drew a throw to second base from catcher Taylor Watson.
In the fourth inning, Abbey Baker doubled and scored.
Next up for the second-seeded Cards is a rematch with third-seeded Lakeview. In Canfield’s season opener, the Cardinals defeated Lakeview, 3-1.
“We weren’t really ready that game,” Beck said. “We were just getting into the groove. I think we’ve come a long way from that game.”
Melewski said that first result means little.
“Teams get stronger as the year goes on,” Melweski said. “Lakeview will be coming ready to play.”