By TOM WILLIAMS
Four weeks ago, pitcher Ashley Wire’s Poland High School softball team ended Cardinal Mooney catcher Conchetta Rinaldi’s varsity career in a Division II district semifinal at YSU Softball Complex.
Tuesday, they returned, this time as battery-mates in helping Mahoning County seniors defeat Trumbull, 9-0, in the first game of the 16th annual Bill Sferra Softball Classic.
Rinaldi, who will play for YSU next season, drove in five runs with her two doubles and single. Mooney teammate Gia DiFabio’s two hits included a double and three RBIs.
Wire and Boardman’s Jennifer Taraszewski combined to toss the shutout.
“She’s a great pitcher,” Rinaldi said of Wire.
In the second game, Trumbull scored three times in the bottom of the seventh inning and had runners at second and third base when the game ended, 6-5 Mahoning, with a groundout. Springfield’s Jacqueline Kish, Lowellville’s Maddie Kelly and Western Reserve’s Layla Woolf combined for the pitching win.
“It means the world to me because it’s hard to think I’ll never get to play with Brooke [Chandler} and Gia again,” Rinaldi said of getting one last chance to wear her high school uniform. “These past four years have been my favorite years.
“They are my best friends — I wouldn’t have traded [playing with them] for the world.”
Rinaldi laughed when asked if Wire, who won 20 straight game before suffering her only loss of the season in the state semifinals, shook off any of signs from Rinaldi.
“No, no, we were good the while way,” Rinaldi said. “It was hard trying to memorize both sets of pitches because they are two completely different pitch sets, but no, we were good.”
Wire, who will pitch for Westminster College next season, gave up three singles in four innings pitched. She said she found out she’d be working with Rinaldi when she arrived for warm-ups.
“It was pretty cool,” Wire said. “We worked well together.”
DiFabio’s first RBI came in the first inning when she hit into a fielder’s choice to score Poland’s Lauren Sienkiewicz for a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Mahoning loaded the bases with walks by Taraszewski, Wire and Sienkiewicz. Rinaldi singled to left field for a 3-0 lead and DiFabio again drove in Sienkiewicz with her hit.
“It was such a great feeling because I knew it was going to be for the last time,” DiFabio said of hitting behind Rinaldi. “I’ve played with her for many years and it’s just something special.”
Ahead 5-0 in the fifth, Taraszewski, Wire and Sienkiewicz again loaded the bases, setting up Rinaldi’s bases-clearing, two-out double.
Rinaldi then scored on DiFabio’s double.
“It was really special getting to play one last time,” DiFabio said.
Howland’s Marissa Jerina and Brookfield’s Bailey Drapola led off the seventh with walks. Girard’s Sam Dohy drove in a run with a ground out, then McDonald’s Sierra Schrader singled to make it 6-4.
After an error, Warren Harding’s Payton Schuller singled to score Schrader. Woolf ended the game by retiring Girard’s Hanna Jones on a groundout.
“I had a great time,” said Drapola, who will play for the University of Akron next season. “There is a lot of talent in our area so it was really fun getting together.”
Fitch’s Lainie Simons and Abby Brown, South Range’s Maddie Helon and Kelly drove in runs for the winners.
LaBrae’s Kaitlin Gibson hit a two-run double for Trumbull.