Canfield’s opening round game against Austintown Fitch started in Canfield on May 12, but after one inning the game was suspended due to a familiar friend this spring season; the wrath of Mother Nature. Heavy rain rendered the 1-1 game unplayable so it was moved to the weekend. More incredibly inclement weather pushed the tournament tilt back another couple days. Finally, on Monday, May 16 Canfield and Fitch picked up its battle. Of course, the game was moved to Boardman’s Field of Dreams due to better playing conditions making things even more complicated. Then, naturally, a game that took over four days to complete couldn’t be kept inside the parameters of just seven innings. It took nine long frames until the Lady Cardinals climbed past the Lady Falcons 4-3 to move into the sectional championship against Howland. That championship clash with Canfield’s All American Red Tier rival was set to be played on Tuesday at 3pm at the Field of Dreams.
When the Cardinals went back to work on Monday things did not start out so swell. Fitch got a pair of solo homeruns off Canfield starting pitcher Carlee Hart to ascend to a 3-1 lead. Usually that lead would be good enough for Fitch’s amazing Amanda Callahan, but the Cardinals would be able to claw their way back into the game with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings. Kaci Hyde and Alexa Schmidt started the bottom of Canfield’s fourth inning with singles then Hyde headed home on an RBI groundout by Gina Mancini. Hyde wanted to make the Falcons run and hide when she started the bottom of the sixth with a single and a stolen base. A wild pitch put Hyde on third and a passed ball allowed her to come home with the tying run. The score remained 3-3 for three more innings thanks to the wonderful relief work of Canfield’s Sarah Vrabel. Vrabel pitched 6 and 2/3 innings out of the bullpen allowing no runs, no hits and just two walks. She also struck out four Fitch hitters. While Vrabel was vanquishing the Falcons, Canfield was waiting for one more run to push itself into the sectional finals. That game-winning run would come in the ninth. Laura Beck began that inning with a walk then went to second on a passed ball. A beautiful bunt by Abby Baker brought Beck over to third base. Fitch’s second passed ball in the ninth brought Beck home with the sectional semifinal clinching tally.
The win in the opening playoff round was Canfield’s eighth of the season. Win number seven kicked off the week for the Cardinals on May 9. That victory was a 9-0 whitewash of Beaver Local that also improved the Cardinals to 4-0 in the Red Tier. Although Hart did not have her heroic stuff in the sectional opener, she was absolutely dominant one week earlier. Carlee threw a complete game no-hitter against the Lady Beavers striking out 17 hitters along the way. She upped her season record to 6-3 with the gem. Offensively, Canfield collected 11 hits led by Vrabel who went two-for-four with a homerun and three RBIs.
The local girls were on the other end of an outstanding pitching performance during their only loss of the week. Canfield was nipped by Walsh Jesuit 1-0 on May 11 thanks to the combined effort of Katarina Davis and Kayla Navratil. The two Walsh Jesuit hurlers joined forces to strike out seven Cardinals and give up only three hits. Cara Cupler had two of those three Canfield safeties. Hart was once again pumping for the Cardinals, but she was simply outpitched by the pair of Walsh girls. Hart worked six and 2/3 innings giving up just one run, five hits and striking out eight.
Canfield’s season will continue if it was able to handle Howland on Tuesday. Hopefully for the worn out Cardinals, that sectional championship only takes one day and seven innings to complete.
Photos by Mike Capps, Town Crier
Junior Sarah Vrabel of Canfield comes into the game as a relief pitcher against Austintown in the second inning of a Division I playoff game in Boardman at the Fields of Dreams on Monday, May 16. Vrabel faced 23 batters, walking two; no hits and a great defensive effect from her team go onto win 4-3 in the ninth inning and advance to the next round.