By Brandon Judeh
Mill Creek’s 14-year-old Pony fast-pitch all-stars didn’t let a loss to Boardman get them them down.
Coach Michael Kernan wondered how his team would react going into a regional tournament after a 5-0 loss to Boardman.
“I was- n’t sure of what the confidence level would be after that loss to Boardman, especially since a lot of these kids had never been a part of a championship team,” Kernan said.
The worries were unnecessary.
The girls bounced back to play some of the best softball of the season, going 5-1 in the regional tournament and getting their revenge against Boardman.
Mill Creek stunned the Spartans, 4-0 and 6-1, last Wednesday to capture the regional title.
“For us to go out and beat Boardman twice was great for the kids’ confidence,” Kernan said. “It was great for me personally to see how excited and happy the girls were after beating Boardman. It’s a great feeling.”
In the first game, Jordyn Kenneally pitched a two-hitter and struck out 10, while Alyssa Winterburn, Gia Calderone and Nikki Malkovitz each had two hits.
“Getting that first win was huge, it really gave us the momentum headed into the final game with Boardman,” Kernan said.
It was the same story for Mill Creek in game two as Kara Gatta notched a three-hitter and added eight strikeouts.
The game remained tight until the top of the fifth inning, when Malkovitz broke the 1-0 game open when she cleared the bases with a three-run double.
Calderone followed with an RBI single to put the game out of reach.
“When this team got together we knew the potential was there,” Kernan said. “As the season went on they kept getting better and gaining more experience. We put the right kids in the right spots and they came up with great pitching and clutch hitting.”
Unfortunately the girls will not be making the trip to nationals this week in Newtown, Pa., due to the regional tournament running late, but Kernan says the experience will be one the girls never forget.
“I wish we could go out to nationals, but I’m very proud of these kids and I know they will cherish this for a very long time,” he said.
It’s been a great year for Mill Creek baseball and softball as several teams have won state championships and advanced to regionals.
Kernan credits the success to the teams’ coaches and the Mill Creek organization for putting together a great nucleus.
“The Mill Creek baseball and softball organizations have been around a very long time, I remember playing here when I was 9 years old and the quality back then was great as well,” Kernan said. “I know that this great organization is going to be around forever and hopefully fast pitch will continue to evolve here.
“Any adult who has ever played here will tell you, it’s a great place to grow up and be a kid.”