After the Canfield softball team struggled in a tournament in Akron earlier this April, the team got together to discuss where it was heading this season.
Little did anyone associated with the Canfield club realize just how much that airing of grievances would help. Since that team meeting, the Lady Cardinals have won all but one game including two over previously impossible-to-beat Poland.
"That powwow worked," said Canfield head coach Ray Melewski chuckling. "We're feeling good right now."
These Cardinals should feel good because they accomplished something that no other Canfield softball team had done in quite a while. Two wins over the Lady Bulldogs on April 22 and April 23 were the first ones the Cardinals had over their arch rivals in five seasons. Coach Melewski had a feeling his girls would do well versus the Bulldogs because of what he saw out of his team a few days earlier.
"We won two out of three at the Wendy's Classic (in Ashland) so that made us feel good about ourselves," said the coach. "We then used that against Poland. We knew how our attitude was going into the Poland games. We knew those were our games to win."
Melewski's club won 8-2 and 4-3 over Poland because it was able to flex some muscle. Kayley Keller was the strongest of the Canfield hitters smacking four home runs in two games including the deciding bomb in the bottom of the seventh of the 4-3 win. That no-doubter walk-off completed a big week for Canfield's senior slugger who also collected four hits and five RBI in the 8-2 triumph.
"She's been on fire," said Melewski about Keller. "She's been a big plus for us offensively. She's been putting balls over the fences."
Sophomore shortstop Rachael Tinkey hasn't been blasting as many dingers, but she did have one in the home win over Poland. She also has been a reliable run producer all season.
"Tinkey is steady as a rock," said Melewski. "She is as consistent as can be with the bat. A very hard out."
Kara Rothbauer is another sophomore who has shown great hitting acumen and she had an RBI against Poland last Tuesday. Senior starting pitcher Abby Baker picked up wins in both contests. She went the distance in both ends to earn the W's and had 10 strikeouts combined. The ability of Baker to get the Bulldogs to bang the ball into the ground and straight up in the air was extremely helpful to Canfield's cause.
"We got Poland to hit into a lot of ground balls and pop ups," Melewski explained. "That helped our defense make plays."
The Cardinals continued to make plays over the past weekend at the Prebis Tournament at Keystone LaGrange.
The opening game at LaGrange was "LaLong" as it took the Cardinals 10 innings to upend Central Crossing, 6-1. Sydney Opladen opened the 10th inning with a hit then scored the go-ahead run on a double by Tinkey. Canfield would go on to score four more runs in that extra frame to take control of the contest. Opladen would end the day with four hits to head the offense. Darby Cockrell had an RBI that tied the game in the top of the seventh inning and forced overtime. Starting pitcher Baker crossed up the Central Crossing kids with five strikeouts to earn her eight win of the year.
The final two games of the tournament were not as fruitful for the local girls as they were turned back 2-1 by North Royalton and 5-4 by NDCL on Saturday.
Baker threw seven innings against North Royalton only allowing five hits and striking out four, but still ended up on the short end. Tinkey had Canfield's only RBI.
In the second game, Rothbauer banged out a pair of hits and had three RBI in a losing effort. NDCL broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the fourth with one run to squeeze out a nice win.
Even though the weekend ended on a sour note for the Cardinals, coach Melewski wants his group to get as much exposure to top-notch competition as they possibly can - especially with the draw for the upcoming Division II tournament coming up this week.
"We want to play these quality teams," he said. "We need to stay consistent and keep playing our 'A' game."