By Tom Williams
Erin Gabriel’s second consecutive one-hitter in the Division II regional tournament has the defending champion Poland High softball team returning to state for the third straight season.
In Poland’s fourth straight regional title game, the Bulldogs (27-2) ousted Akron Hoban, 7-0, on Saturday at Firestone Stadium. The Bulldogs are fired up about Friday’s rematch against undefeated LaGrange Keystone, the team they defeated 4-0 in last year’s championship game.
Third baseman Jenna Modic, whose three hits against Hoban included two doubles and drove in two runs, said she has been hoping for Keystone to advance.
“They’ve been talking [trash] about us all year, saying that they’re the better team,” Modic said. “So we’re going to come out and show them we’re better.”
Keystone defeated Lima Shawnee, 11-1, on Saturday.
“Not really, to be honest,” said Gabriel, a University of Tennessee recruit, when asked if it had sunk in that she would be pitching in her third straight state tournament. “It’s been our goal since the beginning of the season and I’m just happy that we’ve completed [regional].”
Hoban (15-16), which had won nine of its past 11 games, had no answer for Gabriel’s riseball.
Maddie Biestal’s bunt single in the third inning was the only hit for the Knights.
“I threw almost all riseballs today, curves when I needed them, threw one changeup,” Gabriel said. “My rise was on today and it was getting the job done.”
So was the communication between Gabriel and Modic. The Knights’ Johanna Nicodemus drew a lead-off walk in the fifth inning, one of Hoban’s three baserunners. Pinch-runner Lisa Harris lost track of the count and started to second base after ball three.
“Jenna yelled at me, she told me to throw it over,” said Gabriel who took catcher Meredith Testa’s throw and fired to first baseman Taylor Miokovic. Harris was tagged scrambling back to first base.
The Bulldogs wasted no time seizing a 2-0 lead against Hoban’s Kate Boylan (9-6). Marissa Trevis opened the game with a single and scored on Modic’s first hit. Modic, who will play for Miami (Ohio) next season, came home after an error and passed ball.
In the fourth inning, Emily Chandler singled and Maura Bobby reached on an error. With two outs, Testa beat out an infield hit, allowing courtesy runner Meredith Tisone to score Poland’s third run.
Catchers aren’t known for speed.
“I hope I’m faster than most,” Testa said with a laugh of her sprint. “I was just like ‘I need to beat this out, we had two people on.’”
A determined Modic followed her into the batter’s box. In her previous at-bat, Modic was caught looking at strike three.
“I haven’t looked at a strike three the past two years, that was the second time I struck out this year,” Modic said. “I had fire in me.”
Modic doubled down the right-field line, scoring Bobby.
Hoban coach Bob Mosher unsuccessfully lobbied that the ball landed foul. Was it fair?
“I honestly have no idea, I just ran,” Modic said.
Poland coach Reid Lamport agreed the bounces went his team’s way, but added that “you’ve got to hit the ball for it to bounce your way.”
The Bulldogs added three runs in the seventh inning, with Testa, Modic, Miokovic and Amber Isaacson getting hits.