By Tom Williams
Second baseman Mya Duskey triggered the biggest plays in Boardman’s 4-2 victory over Oak Hill in Tuesday’s Little League Softball 10-11 state championship game.
Get this — she played catcher in the regular season and outfield in travel ball.
“I like second base — it’s fun,” Duskey said.
Boardman ace Emma Ericson retired the first nine Oak Hill batters before Andy Lewis reached base on an error to lead off the fourth inning.
After Lewis stole second base, Kody Wright lined out to Duskey who fired a strike to shortstop Hope Burford for a double play.
“She probably thought I wasn’t going to [catch it],” Duskey said.
Duskey wasn’t through.
After Rylie Hughes doubled, Cass Cook singled to left field where Abby Sammartino threw the ball to Duskey.
Noticing Hughes heading for home, Duskey threw a strike to catcher Lauren Maughan who tagged Hughes to preserve a 3-0 lead.
“Mya played phenomenal,” Boardman head coach Eric Ericson said. “In the last game, she turned a double play to end the game,” Ericson said. “Nailing that runner at the plate with the seed she threw home — in a 4-2 game, how big [does] that one run look?”
Duskey said she felt she had a chance “if I threw it well enough, didn’t overthrow [Lauren]. I felt like it was a good throw, I felt we were going to [get her].”
Maughan felt confident.
“When the ball was coming in, it was coming at a straight angle to my glove so I had a great feeling that we could get her out,” Maughan said. “I just put the tag down full force so she couldn’t get anywhere past me.”
Trailing 4-0, Oak Hill rallied to score twice in the sixth inning. Lewis and Wright hit one-out singles then scored on Hughes’ double to deep left field.
After Cook flied out to right fielder Emily Olexa, Ericson struck out Liv Clarkson and Maughan picked up the ball and tagged her to end the game.
“She was only a couple of feet away so it was just an easy play to tag her,” Maughan said. “It was a great relief that she was out, the game was over and we’re state champs. It felt really good.”
Oak Hill was playing its second game of the day. Earlier, the Oaks ousted Tallmadge, 12-1, in four innings.
Oak Hill head coach Roger French started Clarkson, the winner against Tallmadge. After a strikeout, Clarkson walked Burford and then threw three wild pitches in walking Ericson and allowing Burford to score.
Kailey Adkins relieved Clarkson, escaping a jam by leaving the bases loaded.
Boardman padded its lead to 3-0 in the second inning after Chalyse Norvell singled and Katherine O’Horo walked. With two outs, Ericson singled down the first-base line.
Duskey scored Boardman’s fourth run in the fifth inning after she walked and Clarkson replaced Adkins on the mound. Duskey scored on a wild pitch.
Ericson struck out 10 and walked none.
“I wasn’t surprised,” said Ericson of the close game. “I thought it was going to be a dogfight. Luckily, we pulled through in the end.”
As 10-year-olds last year, Boardman finished as district runner-up to Poland. This year’s team was created from four squads of Boardman Community Baseball.
Holding the state champion banner, one emotion was churning in Eric Ericson.
“Redemption,” said Ericson, who said Maughan was a big reason for the win. “In a tight game like that, there wasn’t one passed ball. The way that she played behind the plate enabled our pitcher to pitch the way that she did. [Lauren] was a rock wall back there.”