By Ryan Buck
Behind a dominant pitching performance from Lauren Fitzgerald and an offensive onslaught, the Canfield 9-10 year-old softball team advanced to the district championship after a 10-0 win over Boardman on Friday night at the Fields of Dreams Complex.
Canfield, unbeaten thus far in the tournament, scored three first-inning runs, added four more in the third and capped the night with three more in the fourth when the 10-run rule was enforced.
“They came out ready to go,” Canfield coach Marty Fitzgerald said of his team. “They were swinging the bat, we were aggressive on the bases and the girls were fired up. They were ready to play tonight.
“That’s a very good team we played in Boardman, but our girls knew it. They knew they had to play their best game.”
After Lauren Fitzgerald escaped the first inning, thanks to a one-on, one-out throw to second from catcher Bridgett Kelly to catch a stealing baserunner, the Canfield bats went to work.
Elizabeth Ferraro and Emma Castranova singled to start the first inning and advanced on a wild pitch before Fitzgerald delivered a towering drive to the left field corner that skipped over the fence for a ground-rule double.
Ferraro and Castronova scored from second and third, respectively. Two batters later, Fitzgerald ran home on a passed ball for an early and decisive three-run lead.
“Canfield has a very good softball team and they came out and they hit the ball and did it throughout the game,” said Boardman coach Jim Goske. “That first inning was big. A lot of times when a team jumps out to an early lead like that, it’s a test for 9- and 10-year-old girls and how they respond to it.”
On the mound, Fitzgerald was cruising. The tall right-hander methodically set Boardman down in order in the second and third.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to bat against her,” Goske said, laughing. “For a 10-year-old girl with her size, it’s like [five-time Cy Young Award winner] Randy Johnson on the mound out there.
“She’s definitely the best we’ve faced.”
In the bottom of the third, Castronova again reached base and scored. Kelly then singled home Fitzgerald, Sarah Ferraro singled home Kelly and Sydney Angelo brought in Ferraro for a 7-0 lead.
One inning later, Fitzgerald scored Elizabeth Ferraro and Castronova with a single to left before finally ending the game with a run of her own.
Canfield has two days of rest before the district championship Monday night.
“We’re going to stay aggressive and come back Monday ready to do the same thing,” Marty Fitzgerald said.
Boardman will play in the losers bracket final on Sunday, weather permitting. One other district softball result was Poland’s 19-5 win over Howland.
In the boys 9-10 baseball district tournament, South Range defeated Austintown, 4-1.
11-12 STATE SOFTBALL
The Canfield 11-12 softball all-stars began the state softball tournament in Ashtabula in style.
Canfield beat Bucyrus 20-0 in four innings in their opener. Madi Kelly and KaiLi Gross combined on a perfect game.
Canfield plays Ironton today at 11 a.m. in a winners bracket semifinal.