After five and a half innings of its opening Division I state tournament game, things were going very well for the Fitch softball team.
Behind some very solid starting pitching from Tori Wise, the Lady Falcons were clinging to a 3-2 lead over higher-ranked Aurora and only needed to record six more outs to pull off an upset an advance to the second round. Unfortunately, that scenario would not play out for the Austintown ladies. Aurora batted around in their half of the sixth inning and scored six runs to turn a close game into an eventual 8-3 win.
The two teams tussled to a scoreless tie through three innings of the game played in Boardman then Aurora got on the scoreboard with two runs in the home half of the fourth. Fitch put up a run an inning later then scored a pair in the top of the fifth to forge ahead. Christine Holmes had an RBI double for the Lady Falcons. Megan Carney also knocked home a run as the Falcons flew in front. The only other hits for the Falcons the rest of the day were a single by Cali Mikovich and a double off the bat of Mercedes Pratt.
Although the playoffs ended abruptly for the Falcons, their season still had some life left in it. One must give these girls credit because they were able to come back two days after being taken out of the tournament to sweep a doubleheader on the road at Canton GlenOak. Fitch won game one of that twin bill played on May 12 by a score of 8-4. Wise went back into the pitching circle and tossed shutout ball for four innings. After giving up two runs in the bottom of the fifth, the senior was replaced by Chelsea Raymer who mopped up the game. The Falcons forced two runs across the plate in the top of the third to take the lead then broke open a tied game with six runs in the sixth. Carney cracked a triple, a single and collected three RBIs. Alex Corradi also clocked a triple. Holmes had two hits and two ribbies. Mikovich picked up an RBI. Alana Callahan and Pratt each picked up a pair of singles.
Wise went to the bump one last time in her high school career in the nightcap and came away a winner. Wise was wonderful for four shutout innings as she pitched Fitch to a season ending 13-2 victory. The Austintown kids kicked off the second game with two runs in the top of the first then scored the only other runs they would need in the third when they pushed home two more. Four spots in the fourth and seventh innings made the finale a fantastic offensive show for the Falcons. Corradi clouted two doubles and a single and knocked home three runs to pace the Fitch "O". Carney made her final at bats of her career count with two doubles and a single as well. The senior had one RBI. Mikovich mashed three hits in the win. Wise had two singles and Pratt plated a run with a single.
That spectacular Saturday in Canton made a splendid sendoff to Carney, Wise, Holmes and Fitch's two other seniors Marissa Mraz and Marie Bishop. While losing such solid seniors both on and off the field will be difficult for head coach Melody Ward to swallow, knowing that a solid group of returnees are coming back in 2013 makes things more bearable.
Corradi, Mikovich and Pratt all showed what a sound nucleus they can form as sophomores so it isn't a stretch to predict more great things from them as juniors. Then there is Callahan who is just one of this year's juniors who should easily be able to assume all of the leadership duties a senior needs to carry out. No doubt, Alana will be counted upon to be the top girl on the diamond and in the dugout next spring.
Finishing with 11 wins this year wasn't exactly the win total coach Ward had in mind when she talked about her team in the preseason. A learning curve could be applied to the Falcons, however, since they had to experience their first season in the All American Red Tier and take on heavy hitters such as Howland, Canfield and defending state champion Poland. With another year of experience in the new league, maybe it will be Fitch who is throwing the other schools some curves.