Tom Williams: Diamonds seeking sunshine
It’s the fourth week for spring sports in the Mahoning Valley, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at most teams’ baseball and softball records. Except for the teams that went south for spring break, most have yet to play 10 games. Just about every scheduled game on Monday and Tuesday was wiped out by one last blast from Old Man Winter.
In 25 springs in the sports department, I don’t remember one this wet, this chilly and this soggy. That’s why it was fun last week covering two softball games featuring four solid teams. Neither game went the way I expected — the bats dominated.
The first one was the only regular-season contest between Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney. Both were undefeated although the Cardinals had played just twice.
The game was a slugfest won by Mooney 8-6, suggesting that even pitchers as talented as Jordyn Kenneally and Kayla Rutherford need regular work to stay sharp.
By game’s end, winning pitcher Rutherford had thrown more than 150 pitches. She needed 84 to get through the first three innings. Good thing her catcher, Conchetta Rinaldi, has legs conditioned from playing basketball all winter, to handle the strain of so much squatting.
“Basketball definitely helps,” Rinaldi said. “It’s always kept me in shape. But softball is just what I love.”
Mooney coach Mark Rinehart praised Rinaldi for her dedication.
“No one works harder at her craft than she does,” Rinehart said. “She’s a smart hitter.”
Against Kenneally, Rinaldi doubled twice and singled to drive in two runs.
“She’ll take the ball to right field [then] she’ll pull the ball,” said Rinehart referring to a key hit. “She just missed the right-field foul pole and then she hit the ball off the fence down the left-field line in the same at-bat.”
In the fifth inning, the Cardinals took an 8-3 lead on Caitie Perry’s grand slam. Neither Rinaldi nor Rinehart relaxed.
“I was definitely getting nervous as the game progressed because it’s the Holy War,” Rinaldi said. “You never know what might happen.
“Their girls hit some shots, our girls hit some shots.”
Rinehart said he advised his players “that we better focus, that this team is coming back.
“And they did.”
Three days later, Poland (9-1) rallied for a 12-8 victory over South Range (9-3). All of the Bulldogs’ games have been played in the Mahoning Valley.
“There is nothing you can do about the weather — just stay positive, keep moving forward, keep your routine the same and don’t change anything it,” Poland coach Jim Serich said. “And when you get outside, go make the best of it.”
Serich lifted Ashley Wire in the sixth inning, relieving her with senior Monica Kurjan. In 24 hours, Kurjan recorded wins against Columbiana and Steubenville, then earned a save against South Range.
Thanks to a break from winter, the Cardinals played four games in the three days after the Ursuline game. In the final one, Rutherford outdueled Mathews’ Addy Jarvis in a 13-inning thriller, 2-0. Rutherford tossed a two-hit shutout, striking out 15. Jarvis whiffed 22 Cardinals.
It was the kind of pitching duel you expect to see between two aces in mid-season form. Hopefully more of these are looming ... once the snow melts for good.
Tom Williams is a sportswriter at The Vindicator. Write him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter, @Williams_Vindy.