Something extremely surprising is happening in Austintown.
Very few people expected the Fitch softball team to have sustained success this season. A better-than-.500 record and perhaps a win or two in the post season tournament was about as far as the Lady Falcons were supposed to fly. The one person who had plenty of confidence, however, was Fitch head coach Melody Ward.
"Our goal is to win a conference title and make an appearance in the district title game," said an anxious Ward back in March.
Well, the competitive All American Conference went to rival Canfield, but last Thursday in Boardman, there was Ward's girls in the district title tilt. Not only did the Falcons "make an appearance" in that game as their coach wished for in the preseason, but they did a lot more. Fitch subdued second-seeded Aurora, 5-2 to win the school's first district championship since 2005. That's a feat that has Ward wondering if there is a higher force steering the Falcons.
"I believe there is something very special about this team," said Ward moments after the historic victory. "I would call them a team of destiny. We may not be the biggest team nor the most talented team out there, but we are a group of hardworking girls who will fight for one another and have such a strong desire to win."
That desire was evident from the moment the local girls took the diamond against the favored Aurora squad. Starting pitchers Alex Franken of Fitch and Sarah Petorsh of Aurora tossed two scoreless innings to start the game then things started to break open in the top of the third. Nicholette Zordich started that frame with a single for Fitch and was bunted over perfectly by Katee Sweeney. Cali Mikovich then mashed the first of her two home runs to make it 2-0 Falcons. Mikovich also had four RBI to go with her couple of fence-clearers.
"Cali was on fire at the plate showing discipline and laying off the rise ball of a very skilled Aurora pitcher," bragged Ward.
Another Falcon who displayed patience and power at the plate was Gabby Butcher. Butcher bombed a home run in the top of the fourth to put the Falcons in front 3-0. Fitch would score two more tallies in the fifth when Chelsea Raymer walked, was bunted over again by Sweeney and scored on Mikovich's second shot. The 5-0 lead was too much for Aurora to overcome and was a beautiful sight to Ward's eyes.
"We had very positive at bats in the fifth inning," Ward explained. "Raymer drawing a walk then Sweeney bunting her over was great."
Also great was the pitching of the fabulous Franken. The only blip on Alex's ledger was the two runs she allowed in the bottom of the fifth. Other than that she made the Lady Greenmen put the ball in play and let her defensive mates make all the pickups.
"Our defense got out of multiple jams stranding ten Aurora runners," Ward said. "Our outfield made game saving catches and our infield was spot on."
The Lady Falcons were in that right spot because of what they did to Stow in the district semifinals on May 21. Fitch smoked Stow from the start scoring all of its runs in the first four innings to advance 8-6. Mikovich, in a preview of what was to come a couple days later, went 4-for-4 to lead Fitch's 13-hit parade. Butcher banged out two doubles. Alana Callahan had a double and two RBI. Alex Corradi claimed two RBI too. Franken, Zordich and Mercedes Pratt all picked up an RBI each. Franken also picked up the win again from the pitching circle.
While Franken was earning personal W's the Fitch team nailed down win numbers 19 and 20 on the season last week. Gaining win number 21 will be tough against Medina, who is the top seed in its district. If the Falcons make it past Medina, they will move on to the regional championship. If they don't, their coach will still hold each and every one of her players in high praise.
"We are so proud of the girls and how great they are working together," Ward gushed earlier this week. "We look forward to representing our high school and community in the regional tournament."