Toth leads Canfield over Buckeye, back to states

Staff photo / Preston Byers Leah Figueroa and Macey Kalina dump water on Canfield softball coach Michael Kernan during the Cardinals’ regional championship celebration Friday in Macedonia.

MACEDONIA — Canfield superstar pitcher Malena Toth’s dominance can oftentimes keep her teammates from doing much in the way of anything on defense.

“I get so bored out there sometimes,” Canfield first baseman Macey Kalina said.

Friday’s Division II regional title game was certainly a contest in which it would be understandable for Kalina or the other Cardinals to doze off between at-bats. Toth, who limited offensive juggernaut Aurora to just three hits in the regional semifinal Wednesday, bamboozled Medina Buckeye’s batters Friday afternoon in Macedonia.

Toth struck out 17 batters and surrendered just one hit, a leadoff single in the second inning that sneaked through the right side of the infield, as the Cardinals shut out Buckeye in a 3-0 pitchers’ duel.

“She caught on fire with her pitches and did what she kind of has done all year,” Canfield head coach Michael Kernan said. “This is a good place for it.”

The beginning and end of Friday’s title game were the hardest parts for Toth, who walked a batter in the first inning before allowing Kwynn Czerwony to record Buckeye’s only hit of the day. From that point until the sixth inning, Toth was unstoppable.

After Czerwony’s hit, Toth struck out the next 12 batters, keeping the Bucks completely off of the bases as Canfield’s offense attempted to find its groove. Toth finally faced adversity again in the sixth inning, when Lilly Young and Madison Lichty drew walks and Toth threw a wild pitch over the head of catcher Leah Figueroa.

The seventh inning would prove to be the most difficult of the inning of them all. After popping out Czerwony for the first out of the inning, Toth walked Olivia Matras before sitting down Sarah Michaels for her 16th strikeout of the game.

Kelsey Morano drew another walk for Buckeye, which suddenly appeared to have a real chance of tying the game as a result of the walk and two wild pitches during Morano’s at-bat that allowed a runner to reach third base.

Before Young, the would-be tying run, came up to bat, Kernan called a timeout and visited with his senior pitcher, offering her water and a moment to rest ahead of a pivotal at-bat.

“First, I asked her if she was OK,” Kernan said. “And then two, I said, ‘Give me a smile.’ She smiled, maybe brought some looseness to her. But we’re not in her shoes, we’re not on that mound. As in control as she was and dominant as she was, we’re pitching in 80-degree weather. Is there a little nerves? Is there a little – you’re in the spotlight there.”

As a star does, Toth took advantage of the spotlight centering on her. In fitting fashion, Toth struck out Young in four pitches to complete a regional championship-winning shutout.

The Cardinals’ dugout cleared as Toth’s teammates mobbed her in the circle and celebrated their second consecutive state tournament appearance.

“She finished it out just like I thought – or I knew – she would,” Kernan said.

Toth said after the game that she prepared better for Friday’s regional title game, learning from the warm lessons of Wednesday’s semifinal win.

“[I was] hydrating a lot. I didn’t do that the first game,” Toth said. “It was really hot out, but I was able to get through it with the help of my teammates.”

In addition to her performance in the circle, Toth proved her worth at the plate Friday as well. While she did not record one of Canfield’s four hits, she drew a team-high two walks, the second of which led to the Cardinals’ second run of the game in the fifth inning after Jenna Havrilla, Toth’s courtesy runner, capitalized on a Buckeye error and scored from first base.

Figueroa, who broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the first inning and recorded a pair of hits and RBIs, said Canfield was not “on it” against Young, Buckeye’s freshman pitcher. Kalina added that the Cardinals did not remain patient when facing Young and her rising pitches.


Canfield, for the second year in a row, will head to Akron for the Division II state semifinal.

“I guess for somebody who has been around for 20-plus years, I know how hard it is to do. I personally appreciate getting back there two years in a row,” Kernan said. “I think it’s awesome for the program, awesome for the kids and the community. We’re gonna enjoy a couple of days and then go try and take advantage of the opportunity.”

The Cardinals will play Kenton Ridge on Friday, May 31, at 10 a.m. at Firestone Stadium. Last year, Canfield defeated Steubenville 2-1 in the semifinal before falling in the state championship game to Tallmadge, which lost to Buckeye 4-1 in the regional semifinal Wednesday.

If Canfield wins Friday, the Cardinals will play Sunday, June 1 at 3:30 p.m. again in Akron at Firestone Stadium.

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


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