For all intents and purposes the 2011 softball season came to an end for the Fitch Lady Falcons when they lost in the district tournament to Canfield 4-3 at Boardman’s Field of Dreams.
The Lady Falcons did not go down in the playoffs without a fight however. It took nine innings of closely contested softball before Canfield’s Laura Beck scored on a passed ball to push across the game-winning run.
Just because Fitch was foiled in the state tourney did not mean it did not have some unfinished business to take care of in the Federal League. The Falcons played a trio of Federal contests losing 9-8 in eight innings to Massillon Jackson then bouncing back to blast both Canton GlenOak and Boardman 14-4 and 8-3 respectively. Those games left the Falcons with a 4-9 Federal mark (8-11 overall) with one makeup game potentially remaining versus North Canton Hoover. The two wins in a row were important to the team because it brightened an otherwise dark campaign.
“We finished the season strong,” said Fitch assistant head coach Steve Ward. “We had some disappointing moments (this year), but overall we did accomplish quite a few goals.”
A few of those achievements came on the individual front. The spectacular senior battery of pitcher Amanda Callahan and catcher Carly Ortz both finished with a bang collecting three hits and two RBIs combined against GlenOak and Boardman. Those efforts as well as the duo’s performances all season were widely recognized. Callahan made All-District Honorable Mention and All-Federal League Honorable Mention. Ortz was picked for the 2nd Team for both All-District and All-Federal.
“Those are high honors,” said Ward.
Also being honored was junior Megan Carney who had a triple, a single and four RBIs in the win over GlenOak. Carney became the first Falcon softball player ever to be chosen 1st Team All-District and 2nd Team All-Ohio, but it was her well documented return from a knee injury that was the true reward.
“It was a great comeback and the story kept growing,” Ward said proudly. “For her to bat almost .500 was an amazing feat. We are overjoyed to know coaches around Ohio recognized her journey too.”
Carney’s next journey will be to the top of the leader class for the 2012 Falcons. She will be joining seniors-to-be Brianna Banko, Marissa Mraz and Tori Wise. Wise may be called upon to be the No. 1 starter in the rotation, which may not be horrible considering how well she pitched in Fitch’s final two wins of the year. Of course, replacing Callahan and Ortz will be a huge deal nonetheless.
“It will be extremely difficult to replace the seniors because they were always among our top performers,” Ward explained. “We will be looking for our strong junior class to step up.”
Not only are this year’s juniors a strong class, but there are plenty of Fitch underclassmen who played vital roles this season and will be counted on to grow next spring. Amanda’s sister Alana Callahan will be back as will Mackinzee Barnes. A pair of freshmen, Alex Corradi and Cali Mikovich played so much this season that they were Fitch’s starting keystone combination by the end of the schedule.
“We had the two freshmen starting in the middle infield,” Ward said. “Call it a baptism by fire.”
Catching fire last week was another freshman Falcon Mercedes Pratt. Like Carney, Pratt had to overcome a serious injury herself and had back surgery to add insult to that injury. It wasn’t a certainty that the ninth-grader would be set to resume varsity action or even play softball at all in 2011. Yet there was Pratt behind the plate against GlenOak last week giving Falcons’ fans a glimpse into the future.
“She should be our starting catcher next year,” said Ward excitedly. “It’s amazing she is starting five months (after back surgery). We look forward to her improving and becoming a standout next year.”
All totaled, seven of nine 2011 starters should be suiting up for Fitch in the spring as well as a few other girls who earned letters. That plethora of experience will be a welcomed change from the greenness of the Fitch girls this season.