Canfield advances to regional title game with 12-2 win over Aurora

Staff photo / Preston Byers Macey Kalina celebrates after a Canfield teammate records a hit during the Cardinals’ regional semifinal game in Macedonia on Wednesday.

MACEDONIA — Malena Toth fared well at the plate and in the circle Wednesday as Canfield advanced to the Division II regional championship game with a 12-2 victory over Aurora at Nordonia in Macedonia.

Toth, who Aurora forced to grind through several sweltering innings early on, broke the teams’ scoreless tie in the third inning with an RBI single and later drove in her second run of the day on a bunt. In the circle, Toth struck out six batters and limited the Greenmen to just three hits.

The University at Buffalo commit was also aided by a flurry of runs in the fifth and seventh innings, the latter of which put the Cardinals ahead by double digits.

“I think we played to our potential – I’ll call it all cylinders,” Kernan said. “All year, we seem to get into coast mode when we go up a couple, but not today. We hit on all cylinders. They played incredibly and we played like we know how.”

When Canfield strung five runs together to jump ahead with a 6-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning, and especially when Aurora finally got on the board with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, Kernan said he knew the game was not over.

“They’re a great hitting team. They put a lot of runs on the board with a lot of great hitters,” he said. “So yeah, 6-2, I wasn’t comfortable. When we started pouring it on there in the top of the seventh and adding a couple extra runs, I mean, you just kind of put a nail in the coffin at that point.”

The nail in Wednesday’s game took the shape of six Canfield runs in the final frame. Moments after Aurora scored their two runs and seemed to have grabbed the momentum of the game, Canfield snatched it right back and delivered the knockout blow.

To lead off the inning, Toth reached base on an error in Aurora’s outfield before Leah Figueroa singled to left field, scoring the Cardinals’ seventh run. Caylee Ortiz doubled to score the second run of the inning for Canfield, which added two more runs on defensive errors and two more runs on singles.

Amid Canfield’s offensive outburst and with the game solidly in their control, the Cardinals decided to pinch hit for Toth and keep their star pitcher in the cooler, shaded dugout.

“Both teams, us and them, had to play in the heat,” Toth said. “So it was a fair game. Just had to keep hydrating, though.”

After a season filled with rain, the heat now serves as a different challenge that Canfield will have to prepare for moving forward, Kernan said.

“Heat’s a factor at this point. We got to learn to play through it,” Kernan said. “You have to toughen up, you have to battle through it… In the dugouts, we’re trying to keep everybody cool and hydrated. That’s a piece of the planning during the game too.”

The sun tucked behind dark clouds just as the Cardinals embarked on their first scoring run in the top of the fifth inning. Sydney Lutz, who went 3-for-5 and tallied a game-high 3 RBIs in the win, drove in two with a single to right field in the fifth.

Toth’s successful bunt scored another run and led to an Aurora error that allowed Lutz to score as well. Faith Morell’s RBI single capped off the half-inning and gave Canfield a 6-0 lead.

With the victory, the Cardinals advanced to the regional final and eliminated one of the regional’s two No. 1 seeds. Aurora, which was 24-1 heading into Wednesday, had outscored its playoffs opponents 33-4 en route to sectional and district titles.

In the regional championship game, Canfield will play Medina Buckeye on Friday. Buckeye earned its spot in the game with a 4-1 win Wednesday over Tallmadge, the other No. 1 seed and the defending Division II state champions who defeated Canfield in the state final last year.

The regional final will be played at Nordonia in Macedonia on Friday at 1 p.m. The winner will advance to the state semifinals next weekend in Akron.

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


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