Canfield keeps rolling with 4-2 win over Howland

Staff photo / Preston Byers Canfield pitcher Malena Toth winds up to throw to a Howland batter on Monday.

CANFIELD — After a four-run outburst in the first inning, Canfield’s offense slowed as Howland pitcher Brooke Tatar found her groove. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Howland failed to capitalize on its many chances at the plate as Canfield defeated its All-American Conference rival 4-2 at McCune Park on Monday.

Canfield’s Malena Toth threw 138 pitches, grinding through several half innings in the circle, including the top of the seventh, during which Toth walked in two unearned runs after an error and a pair of singles loaded the bases. On the first pitch of the eighth at-bat of the inning, however, Toth, with the bases still loaded, forced a Lily Ansel groundout to first to preserve Canfield’s ninth consecutive victory.

After the game, Canfield head coach Michael Kernan said his team did not play with the same urgency after building a 4-0 lead in the first inning, which he says may be a symptom of the team’s early-season dominance.

“We’ve just been coasting so much that I feel we came out up 4-0 and then hit a coast button,” Kernan said. “We talked about it a little bit after the game, and it was just set up to be a little flat. And I think that’s just what happened there today.”

After Toth stranded two Howland runners in the top of the first inning, the Cardinals immediately jumped ahead with a Marina Koenig leadoff home run. Jenna Triveri then singled to center before Toth singled and Triveri scored on an error. With two outs, Canfield added another pair of runs with an RBI single by Sydney Lutz and RBI double by Caylee Ortiz.

The seven-hit, four-run first inning marked the end of the Cardinals’ success at the plate Monday. Tatar responded well starting in the second and maintained form for the rest of the game; after the first inning, she allowed just three hits and zero runs.

Howland head coach Nicole Wayt said she did not say anything to Tatar after her rough opening inning in the circle because she knew it was not necessary.

“Brooke’s the kind of kid you don’t have to tell her; she knows what she needs to do. She just goes back out there and does her job,” Wayt said. “I think maybe she just worked out a little bit of jitters in the first inning. We adjusted what we were throwing — her changeup was on today, and they couldn’t hit it once we started throwing it.”

Kernan also commended Tatar’s changeup and said Canfield was caught a bit off guard by it.

“Tatar started using a pretty effective changeup, I’ll say that. She didn’t throw it in the first inning that much and we came out ready to hit her. And then she came out with a nice effective changeup, and I’m not sure we were really prepared for that.”

While Tatar did her part in the circle, the Tigers batters could not give her proper run support for most of the game. Howland found success getting runners on base — they drew five walks and recorded six hits in total — but through the first six innings, each runner in orange was left stranded.

In the top of the seventh, Howland, needing at least four runs to go to the bottom of the inning, loaded the bases after Tatar and Alyssa Massucci singled and Madison Schmitz reached base on an infield error. Toth moved one out away from the shutout win with her 11th strikeout of the game, but back-to-back walks gave Howland its first runs of the game and real hope of a dramatic comeback.

Kernan, who called a timeout and visited with his star pitcher and defense, said he was confident the Cardinals would prevail. And they did just that, as Ansel jumped on the first pitch of her at-bat and grounded out to first baseman Macey Kalina for the final out of the game.

The win moves Canfield, which the Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association has ranked as the No. 1 Division II softball team in the state, to 9-1 on the season, with its only loss being in the season opener against Austintown Fitch. Monday’s victory against Howland is just the third game this season in which Canfield did not win by 10 or more runs.

Howland will have a chance at revenge against Canfield today. The Cardinals and Tigers are set to play again in Howland at 5 p.m.

Have an interesting story? Contact Preston Byers by email at pbyers@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @PresByers.


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