in regional semi
By Tom Williams
Not even the nastiest of colds could prevent Canfield senior softball player Jill Baker from her final regional appearance.
“It was kind of hard, but you just have to push through it,” said Baker through watery eyes and a scratchy voice that could give ’80s singers Kim Carnes and Bonnie Tyler a run for their money.
Baker and classmate Chloe Cruz drove in the only Canfield runs in the Cardinals’ 4-2 loss to Willoughby South on Wednesday in a Division I regional semifinal at Lee Jackson Field.
Baker said she woke up aching on Tuesday.
“I rested yesterday,” said the Canfield senior, who will graduate with eight varsity letters (four for basketball, four for softball). “I texted Coach [Ray Melewski] — I promised I’d be ready for today.”
Baker and Cruz will play softball in college — Baker for Wittenberg and Cruz for Kent State University.
“It’s weird, but I’m kind of ready for [graduation],” Baker said. “It’s been a great four years in high school sports.”
Cruz was a varsity starter all three seasons for the Cardinals (19-10). She plans to study human resources management.
“We played really well this season,” Cruz said. “It shocked me because we lost a big class [to graduation], a lot of talent.”
Despite the turnover, the Cards repeated as district champions.
“We had really good communication and I think we played a great season,” Cruz said.
Also playing their final game were outfielder Sydney Fabry, second baseman Taylor Lampe and outfielder McKenna Carey.
“Tough class,” Melewski said. “I really didn’t know what this year’s team was going to be like because of all the starters we had to replace.
“These seniors took hold of things, led the [younger] girls,” Melewski said.
The Rebels (23-6) scored solo runs in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
The Cardinals struggled against Rebels ace Riley Frizell as she limited them to an infield single before Canfield scored twice in the sixth.
“She’s a little bit faster than what we typically see,” Cruz said of Frizell. “For me, it wasn’t that hard to time her up because I like fast pitching.
“But for the rest of the team it was [a challenge] because she was throwing off-speed [pitches],” Cruz said. “It made it a little more difficult. She was good at keeping [us] off-balance.”
Trailing 3-0 in the sixth inning, Brooke Crissman reached on an error by third baseman Ava Scott. Cruz smacked Frizell’s next pitch into the left-field corner for a double. Calie Eshelman bobbled the ball, sending Cruz to third.
“It felt really good,” Cruz said. “I turned and saw it go right down the line. I knew it was going to be at least a double.
“It felt really good to hit a pitcher of that caliber.”
With an 0-2 count, Baker grounded out to score courtesy runner Aiden Orlovsky.
KaiLi Gross allowed eight hits, striking out four and walking four.
An unusual double play erased an early Canfield scoring opportunity. In the second inning, Gross drew a lead-off walk and was replaced by courtesy runner Jenna Troxil.
One out later, Mallory Vaclav smacked a comebacker to Frizell, who fired a strike to Mya Matriano covering second base. The shortstop’s foot never touched the bag before she threw to first baseman Raegen Wiliams to retire Vaclav.
Troxil, thinking she was out, walked back to the dugout. Neither Melewski coaching first base nor Joe Mazerik at third saw the umpire signal safe. After Williams threw back to Matriano, the shortstop returned the throw to Williams who applied the tag for a 1-6-3-6-3 double play.