The 2012 softball season has started spectacularly for the Canfield Lady Cardinals.
Canfield's girls have slaughtered their competition to the tune of 58-14 over the first six games to begin the year undefeated. Making those triumphs even more terrific is the fact that five of them have come against Canfield's rivals in the All American Red Tier Conference.
"Who can complain?" asked rookie head coach Ray Melewski chuckling over the weekend. "We have started really well. Everything is going the right way."
Everything certainly went Canfield's way when the Lady Cardinals clubbed Struthers 11-1 in a home win on April 5. Canfield's kids scored at least one run in each inning of the ballgame including a four-run outburst in the fifth. Fantastic freshman Rachel Tinkey led the way with her first-ever varsity homerun in the bottom of the third. She also knocked in two of her team's four fifth-inning runs. Junior Sydney Opladen plated two runs in the fifth with a double and finished the game by going 3-for-3. Junior Kaci Hyde did everything in pairs by picking up two hits, two ribbies and two stolen bases. Another ninth-grader, Darby Cockrell, clouted a triple and senior Gina Mancini had an RBI.
Getting the win for Canfield last Thursday was senior Sarah Vrabel who allowed only one run on four hits while striking out eight. Vrabel wiggled out of bases loaded jams in both the first and fifth innings to pick up win number six on the season. Seeing Sarah subdue hitters is something coach Melewski has been used to seeing in previous seasons.
"We played against (Vrabel) when I was coaching at Howland and we are very pleased to be on her side," said Melewski jokingly. "She is very conscious of what she's doing out there. She is fantastic on the mound."
Win number five for Vrabel came a day earlier when she allowed Alliance just one hit in a 15-3 victory. Canfield would score all the runs it really needed in the top of the third inning when five runners crossed the plate. The Cardinals would also score five in the sixth frame and four more in the top of the seventh for good measure. Although Canfield collected 13 hits, nine Alliance errors opened the door to the blowout win. Hyde helped with the bat knocking in two runs, as did eleventh-grader Alexa Schmidt. Cockrell and Opladen hit doubles.
While the offensive output was outstanding, so was the ease in which the Cardinals ran around the bases. Canfield had an astronomical 11 steals against Alliance including five from fleet-footed freshman Alexa Bodine who was brought up earlier in the week to inject life in the Cardinals' legs.
"We watched her speed (in the freshmen games)," said Melewski. "We put her in to run for Sarah. She's like a rabbit on the bases."
Just like a rabbit, the wins kept multiplying for Canfield last week. Another impressive victory came over conference sister Howland 3-2 on April 3 on the road. Mancini mashed two hits and had two runs batted in to lead Canfield's nine-hit attack. Hyde added two hits of her own. Junior Kayley Keller and freshman Kara Rothbauer each belted doubles. Vrabel was cruising with a shutout until the bottom of the sixth when the Lady Tigers attempted a comeback with a two-run inning. That comeback try finished one run shy however.
Now the Lady Cards hope to not shy away from staying unbeaten. A conference game against Niles is scheduled for April 12 at home. On Saturday, the Cardinals climb the bus to travel to Western Reserve for a late afternoon twin bill versus the host team in game one and Springfield in game two. Then on Monday, April 16 Canfield hosts defending division and state champion Poland. Battling the Lady Bulldogs will be a stern challenge to Canfield's perfect start.
"Coach (Reid) Lamport runs a great program," said Melewski admiringly about his upcoming adversary. "They have two great pitchers in Erin Gabriel and Jenna Modic. We better be ready to play on Monday."