With a team made up of underclassmen, Canfield softball head coach Ray Melewski wasn't quite sure at the start of the season how successful his squad would be.
A 21-win season and a top seed in the Division II state tournament gave the coach an idea that he was watching something special. After subduing Southeast 10-5 in its first tournament game, Canfield was set up to meet archrival Poland for the district championship on May 23 in Alliance.
A quick start by Poland and shoddy defense by Canfield ended the Cardinals season 7-6 in eight innings.
With the scored tied at 6 in the top of the eighth, Poland placed a runner on first. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second, a little tapper off the bat of the Bulldogs' Phoebe Bush was picked up and flung over the first baseman's head. That error allowed the eventual winning run to cross home plate. It was the fatal fifth miscue for Canfield on the day.
''Five errors is uncharacteristic of the way we played all year,'' said Melewski. ''We usually don't boot the ball or throw the ball over the first baseman's head. You can't do that in a big game.''
Another thing that's hard to do in a big game is come back from a large early deficit, yet that is exactly what Melewski's squad did on that Thursday. After Poland picked up three runs in the top of the first inning, Canfield cut into its rival's lead on an RBI single from Kara Rothbauer. Poland would make its lead 6-1 a couple innings later, but once again the Cardinals clawed their way back.
Darby Cockrell corked an RBI single, and then Allison Fabry followed with a two-run double to make the score 6-4. With the score 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth, Rachel Tinkey tied the tilt with an RBI double. The game would stay knotted at 6 until the fateful eighth inning.
Although this Cardinal club couldn't technically live up to their number one playoff ranking, they were number one in the heart of their head coach.
''Walking in (to the season) with three pitchers who never pitched varsity, I could never have dreamed of the season we had,'' said Melewski. ''I could never be more proud of these girls. When you look at it, yes losing stinks, but we'll be back.''
Coach Melewski sounded like Schwarzenegger, because his 2015 team should be as strong as the former Terminator is.
Tinkey, Cockrell, Fabry, Rothbauer, Karina Kennedy, Marina Sturgeon and Megan Kusilek are all juniors who played a major role in Melewski's lineup this year. Add to that group underclassmen such as Bridget Durkin, Ally Sammarco, Maura Kennedy, Kayla Troxil and Amelia Manenti, and Canfield should be the favorite to earn the top seed in the district once again.