In a season when everything seemed to go right for the Poland softball team, the final game ended up so wrong.
Poland lost the Division II state championship in heartbreaking fashion to Hebron Lakewood 1-0 on June 5 in Akron. The title was Hebron Lakewood’s third in a row with the past two coming in Division III.
It’s hard to characterize a 30-2 season as disappointing, but after losing to the Lancers by the narrowest of margins, everyone in Poland was inconsolable.
“I feel so bad for the girls,” said Poland head coach Reid Lamport shortly after the game. “They worked so hard to get to this point. It stings.”
The hit that stung the most last Saturday was the homerun by Lakewood freshman Kelsi Thompson that led off the bottom of the second inning. That solo slam would prove to be the only run off of sensational Poland sophomore pitcher Erin Gabriel who tossed a complete game with a dozen strikeouts. Gabriel needed very little run support in most of the games she pitched this season, but in a championship contest against a defending champ, getting runs out of the gate is important.
“We tried to give Erin an early lead,” said Lamport. “She still pitched a great game for us.”
After falling behind 1-0, the Lady Bulldogs built rallies in both the third and fourth innings. Poland had the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the third and put two runners on base an inning later, but could not push across any runs. That scenario was totally not indicative of Poland’s offense this season.
“All year long someone came up with a big hit for us,” Lamport lamented. “Getting two-out hits was something we did a lot. When opportunities come up you have to take advantage of them.”
Lakewood starting pitcher Alyssa Patznick put the clamps on those Poland uprisings as she scattered just five hits the entire game. The Lancer hurler may not be as well known around here as Poland’s pitcher is, but she made a name for herself inside the circle in the championship.
“(Patznick) pitched well,” Lamport said honestly. “She did a nice job pitching around our good hitters. We put some balls in play, but we were not very aggressive at the plate.”
Aggressiveness was not the problem for Poland in its 5-4 semifinal victory over New Concord John Glenn a couple days earlier. The problem early in the game turned out to be its defense as two errors by the Bulldogs led to a four run fifth inning for New Concord John Glenn. Trailing 4-1 after that bad fifth inning, the Bulldogs bounced right back with three runs in their half of the frame. With the score tied in the last of the seventh, the local girls loaded the bases then scored the game-winning run on a botched John Glenn throw to home on a force out attempt.
Jenna Modic got the Bulldogs on the board early when she bashed a solo homerun in the bottom of the third inning. Modic also had the double that started Poland’s game-clinching rally in the last of the seventh. Nicole White had an RBI groundout that tied the game at four in the bottom of the fifth. Adrianna Sikora scored the winning run on the Muskies mismanaged throw at the end of the game.
When Sikora slipped across the plate in the semifinal it may have seemed like fate was smiling on the side of the Bulldogs. Snatching a win out of thin air like Poland did would seem to indicate that the top ranked team was one of destiny. We know now that was not the case, but that does not mean that this batch of Bulldogs should not feel good about their accomplishments in 2010.
“We had a tremendous year winning 30 games,” coach Lamport mentioned. “The 30 wins was a school record as was the 25 wins in a row (that ended in the finals). These girls have lots to be proud of and should take a lot away from this season.”
Jess D’Apolito dives for the ball to make the play as Poland goes onto win 4-1 in the semifinals last week.