When the Alliance district of the state Division II softball tournament begins this week, the Canfield Lady Cardinals will be the team to beat.
Canfield was seeded No. 1 in the playoffs thanks to its sparkling 14-4 record and its recent championship in the All American Conference. Coach Ray Melewski's ladies will play their first playoff game on Thursday, May 16 against the winner of the contest between Alliance and Struthers. Neither of those teams is considered in Canfield's class, but shocking events like the one that made Canfield No. 1, happen often this time of year.
"We were surprised to be No. 1," Melewski said Sunday night. "We didn't know if we'd beat out Poland or West Branch. But we won't take anyone for granted. You can't overlook any team."
Overconfidence is something this Canfield club never needs to worry about. The Lady Cards have steamrolled pretty much all opponents this year mainly because their pitching has been outstanding. In four wins last week, Canfield's adversaries scored only four runs per game. Senior Abby Baker has performed most of the wonderful work inside the pitching circle. Baker is the top arm in Melewski's rotation and she will be counted on to continue her mound mastery the rest of May.
"Abby has gotten stronger," said Melewski. "We feel really good about her. We will throw a couple of other girls this week to get Abby some rest, but she'll be out there (when the tournament begins)."
Pitching has only been part of Canfield's winning equation this year. The Cardinals' offense has been flexing its muscle of late battering Beaver Local, 14-5 on May 9 and jolting Jefferson, 16-6 on May 7. Those outbursts completed a four-game stretch that saw them score 44 runs (Canfield also won 7-3 over Lakeview and 7-4 over Uniontown Lake). Only a rainout against Hubbard last Saturday slowed down Canfield's clubbing of opposing pitching.
"The bats are doing well," Melewski said enthusiastically.