Longtime Poland softball head coach Reid Lamport picked an outstanding time to win his 500th career game as a coach.
The milestone victory came on May 28 when the Lady Bulldogs beat Walsh Jesuit 6-1 at Firestone Park in Akron. Oh yeah, that win also propelled the Poland girls into their second straight Division II Final Four. For anyone who has ever spoken to coach Lamport, you know that the humbleness he possesses did not allow for him to celebrate the glory of that monumental achievement.
‚ÄúI‚Äôd rather bask in a regional championship than my 500th win,‚Äù Lamport said honestly over the weekend. ‚ÄúIt was special to get it at this point of the season, but we have two more games to win.‚Äù
If the Bulldogs (23-2) can indeed win a pair of games it will bring home a state title. If the team continues to ride the bionic-like arm of pitcher Erin Gabriel then that championship trophy will be packed and postmarked for a delivery to Poland. Gabriel worked both the regional semifinal match with West Branch on May 26 and the final two days later allowing a total of one unearned run on eight hits while striking out 27. Gabriel, who is now 14-1 for the year, did look beatable for at least one inning last Saturday however. After she gave up a triple to the first Walsh Jesuit hitter, a throwing error allowed the first run of the game to score. Before anyone could blink the almost perfect Poland squad was down 1-0.
‚ÄúThat was uncharacteristic of us,‚Äù said Lamport of the shoddy first inning defense.
Of course, that would be the last time any Lady Warrior would ever cross the plate against Poland. Using the fortitude they formed throughout this incredible campaign, the Bulldogs bounced right back against Walsh Jesuit to jump into the state semifinals. The Bulldogs would score four runs over the second and third innings combined and put the game away with 2 more in the top of the fifth. Jenna Modic and Adrianna Sakora each had two hits and two runs scored to pace Poland‚Äôs offense. Gabriel scored the tying run in the top of the second on a single by Emily Chandler. Gabriel would knock in the two go-ahead runs one inning later then the Bulldogs built on that lead on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Taylor Mikovic and a Warrior throwing error.
‚ÄúWe showed what we were made of,‚Äù Lamport said enthusiastically. ‚ÄúWe were down 6-0 to Elyria and came back earlier this year and we were down to our last three outs against Notre Dame Cathedral Latin. We pulled from those games.‚Äù
Gabriel pounded a homerun to pump up Poland in its 5-0 win over West Branch. She also scored two runs. Leading 1-0, Poland pushed across four insurance runs in the fifth inning when it sent eight hitters to the plate. Modic and Mikovic had RBIs. It was important for a freshman like Mikovic and a junior like Chandler to have huge weekends because it takes the burden off the senior stars who stole the headlines for most of the past four seasons.
‚ÄúEveryone 1 through 9 (in the batting order) must contribute,‚Äù Lamport insisted. ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt count on just a few girls each game.‚Äù
Coach Lamport will be counting on everybody again Thursday when his team takes on Tipp City Tippecanoe at 5:30 p.m. at Firestone Park. Tipp City enters Thursday‚Äôs state semis with a 27-5 mark. To prepare for the Final Four, coach Lamport had his girls on the diamond early Memorial Day morning and planned it again for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs will butt heads with undefeated Champion in a sort of scrimmage for both clubs. The Lady Flashes are also in the Final Four in the Division III ranks.
If Poland can tip Tipp City then it will advance to Saturday‚Äôs state championship against either Columbus St. Francis DeSales or LaGrange Keystone. That game is set for 1 p.m.