Austintown Fitch clobbers Walsh Jesuit 8-2

Austintown Fitch poses with the trophy after defeating Walsh Jesuit in a Division I regional title game.

YOUNGSTOWN – As a defending state champion, every team will give you their best effort.

This season the Austintown Fitch Falcons softball team has withstood the best shot delivered by almost every team they have faced on the diamond including the Walsh Jesuit Warriors in an 8-2 Regional championship victory by the Falcons.

Friday night at YSU was a rematch between the two programs who played in the same regional final on the same field a year ago. Although it was not a run-rule game won by the Falcons like last year, they controlled it from the opening pitch until the final out.

With the victory, the Falcons improve to 21-1 on the season as they advance to the state semifinals at Akron’s Firestone Stadium next Friday. The Falcons will face the Fairfield Indians with the first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m.

“Being ranked nationally and with what we accomplished last year, it has been hard,” Falcons junior pitcher Sydnie Watts admitted. “We have faced everyone’s top players.”

“We knew nothing was going to be given to us this year. We knew the target was going to be huge because of what this team was able to accomplish last year. We talked to them about that, and we still talk to them about it. But these girls thrive in these moments,” Falcons head coach Steve Ward added.

After leaving the bases loaded in the first inning and stranding two more runners in the second, it appeared the Falcons were squandering opportunities. But in the third, second baseman Samantha Severn ripped a two-run single to right field, scoring Abby Toth and Sydnie Watts to stake them to a 2-0 lead.

“I was just hoping to put the ball in play past the infield so I could get my teammates in. Having that opportunity is something we couldn’t lose,” Severn said.

That was essentially all that Watts needed as she tossed a complete-game four-hitter, improving her season record to 21-1. Although she was not as sharp as usual, she struck out 13 batters while surrendering six walks and two earned runs in the seventh inning when the outcome of the contest was already well in hand.

“My control wasn’t really there (tonight), and I was just trying to move my pitches,” Watts said. “They are a very good hitting team, and we got the big outs.”

However, a key to the Falcons winning the contest came following a threat by the Warriors in the fourth inning.

With the Falcons leading by two in the top of the fourth, the Warriors’ Kayla McGee led off the frame with a single to center field and advanced to third following an error and a sacrifice. Renee Brown then hit a one-hopper back to Watts in the circle. Watt looked McGee back and then fired to first to retire Brown. But McGee decided to try scoring on the throw and was gunned down at home by first baseman Abby Toth’s accurate throw to Kylie Folkwein.

“Syd played it perfectly,” Ward said. “Abby knew it was coming and Ky knew it was coming. They executed it like we should, and I think it was a big momentum swing right there. It took the wind out of their sails and put it in ours.”

The Falcons took advantage of the momentum swing by tacking on a run in the fourth. With two outs, Toth singled, Folkwein doubled, and Watts drew a base on balls before Morgan Roby drew another walk to force Toth home and boost their advantage to 3-0.

The Falcons then blew the game open in the fifth inning when they scored five runs in the frame and took a commanding 8-0 lead. Senior Vita Kelty hit a one-out single to right, followed by a triple by freshman Kaliana Ray to center, scoring pinch-runner Rachael Spalding. A ground out allowed Ray to score to make it 5-0.

Although the Falcons are great at playing small ball, they showed that they are just as capable at hitting the long ball as Toth laced a double to the center field fence, followed by a long home run to left field by Folkwein. Not to be outdone, Watts crushed a bomb to center field.

“This feels great. I think we can do it again,” a confident Watt said about the opportunity to win another state title.

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