By Kevin Connelly
Canfield manager Kerry Durkin said he always tells his team when they get into tight situations that if they limit their opponent to 21 outs they’ll be OK.
In the opening game of the round-robin portion of the Little League Softball Junior League (ages 13-14) Central Regional tournament on Saturday, his girls found themselves in just that situation.
The Ohio state champions were in a 1-1 battle with Zionsville, Ind., entering the final inning at Firestone Stadium. With one out, the Cardinals’ Maura Kennedy fouled off a number of pitches before drawing a walk.
On an Amelia Manenti single, Kennedy advanced to third. With the winning run just 60 feet away, Maddy Johns smacked a pitch down the line, right at Zionsville’s third baseman.
Kennedy immediately broke for home, sliding just under the catcher’s tag giving Canfield a 2-1 lead late in the game which the Cardinals won 4-1.
“I don’t know if there would’ve been another girl on the team who would’ve made that break, that aggressively,” Durkin said. “And it was smart — it was a good play.
Mia Kindins then hit a sacrifice fly scoring Manenti and Kayla Troxil added one more insurance run with an RBI double.
“Sometimes girls have instincts and they just do things naturally,” Durkin said. “[Kennedy] really made a great break and that was obviously the biggest play of the game.”
In the bottom half of the inning Troxil closed it out for Canfield, finishing off a complete game one-hitter. She struck out four and walked three – allowing the only run to score in the first.
“We got great pitching from Kayla Troxil, timely hitting, and some great baserunning,” Durkin said. “We’re happy with the win.”
The game originally was scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and the Cardinals were also scheduled to play at 1 p.m. However, overnight rain pushed the game against Indiana to the evening and plans were for Canfield to play its second game, against Milwaukee, Wis., under the lights. Wisconsin won its pool play opener 11-6 over Grandview, Iowa. Canfield is scheduled to play Iowa Monday at 8 a.m.
Troxil walked the first batter of the game Saturday and then gave up her only hit, allowing the runner to advance to third. Zionsville scored on a ball that got by the third baseman, as Canfield was trying to check the runner. Troxil walked the next batter, prompting her coach to call an early meeting on the mound.
Durkin said Troxil was having issues early on with her changeup, rolling five or six to the catcher in the first inning. The next time he signaled for the pitch she shook him off.
When I went out there I told her, ‘Look, you’re not gonna shake me off on this’,” Durkin said. “We’re going to stay with it and we’re gonna see this thing through — that’s your pitch.”
She struck out the next batter and didn’t allow another base runner until the bottom of the seventh. Durkin credits her success to her commitment to the changeup.
“The first game in regionals, everybody’s tight,” he said. “And my girls were tight, there was no doubt about it.”
The top two finishers in Canfield’s pool advance to the final four with the tournament winner earning a trip to the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash.