By Greg Gulas
Last season as the South Range and Canfield High School softball teams were awaiting sectional tournament play, they locked up for a pitchers duel won by the Raiders, 1-0.
At the second annual Mahoning Valley Invitational on Saturday, the Cardinals returned the favor with a 2-1 victory.
Ally Sammarco’s double in the top of the fifth inning scored Darby Cockrell and Marina Sturgeon with the go-ahead runs in the Cardinals’ come-from-behind victory.
“It was a 2-1 count and I couldn’t really tell you what type of pitch I hit, but my goal while walking up to the plate was to just get a ball in the strike zone and then drive it,” Sammarco said. “Like last year, it was a well-pitched game by both teams.
“For us, Allison [Fabry] kept throwing strikes, was always around the plate and our defense came up big as well.”
Fabry went the distance for Canfield (16-5), scattering six hits while allowing one run.
With the game scoreless through three innings, South Range’s Stevie Taylor broke the tie with a solo home run to lead off the fourth frame for the Raiders (21-5).
The round-tripper, her 14th of the season, was one of three hits for her in a perfect day at the plate.
“Stevie’s home run was no surprise,” South Range head coach Don Feren said. “If a pitcher makes a mistake and puts it in her zone then she’ll take advantage and hit it out of the park.
“Canfield is an excellent program and I love the fact that we are able to play each other right around tournament time,” Feren said. “It’s a great way for both teams to get ready because it’s always a well-played game.”
With one out in Canfield’s half of the fifth inning, Sammarco delivered the game-winning blow.
“We had just one hit through the first four innings so it took us a while to get our bats going,” Canfield head coach Ray Melewski said. “Ally got the timely hit today and we picked it up offensively over the final three innings.
“Allison was in trouble a couple times, but was able to work out of those jams by mixing things up,” Melewski said. “They key for her is that she never gets flustered and always remains calm, no matter what the situation.”
Fabry, who struck out three and got the game’s final batter to pop out with the bases loaded, said she enjoys a good, competitive game especially with sectional play set to begin this week.
“My inside pitch was really working and this is the type of competition you want as you head into the tournament,” Fabry said. “We lost to them a year ago at the end of the season so it was nice to beat them today.
“Both teams played really well.”
South Range’s Caralyn Yanek (10-3) took the loss, scattering six hits for the Raiders.
The 24-team invitational is up eight teams from a year ago and co-tournament director Marco Marinucci said it’s possible they could add junior varsity teams.
“Last year, we split the field among three playing sites but this year hoped to play at one site,” Marinucci said. “We’re fortunate in that Springfield worked with us to secure this complex.”
The tournament featured 19 local teams as well as Conneaut, Stow, Madison, Ashtabula Edgewood and Jefferson.
“The reason for the tournament was that Don and I wanted to play some of the top teams without going too far away,” he said. “We wanted to bring those teams to our area and after the success we’ve had, we’ll once again re-evaluate and look to perhaps include teams from out of state as well.”