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Canfield girls come close, but end season at 19-10

May 30, 2018
The Town Crier

It was going to be a tall order for the Canfield softball team to upend Willoughby South in the Division I regional semifinal played last Wednesday afternoon in Akron.

South was sending Missouri commit Riley Frizell to the pitcher's circle and, although the Lady Cardinals were very comfortable throwing ace Kaili Gross against her, knocking off Frizell was going to be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding the sensational sophomore was warranted. Frizell held Canfield scoreless over the first five innings and only allowed one earned run the rest of the game as the Lady Rebels sent Canfield home for the summer 4-2. Canfield's year ended with a 19-10 record and just a handful of wins shy of a state championship. It also ended with head coach Ray Melewski consoling his young ladies.

"I told them I couldn't have been more proud of them today for the way they played," said the veteran coach shortly after the season-ending setback. "I thanked them for their hard work and dedication and that I was proud to be their coach."

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Canfield's coach certainly had a lot to be proud of both last Wednesday at the University of Akron's Jackson Field and during the long campaign. Gross went almost pitch for pitch with her much more heralded counterpart. She scattering hits throughout the ballgame, but never allowed the Willoughby women to have a huge inning. This was a sizzling South offense that was averaging ten runs per game entering the regional showdown with Canfield.

Melewski's girls also showed grit as they battled back from a 3-0 deficit. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cardinals were able to crack Frizell a bit and put some runners on base. A Rebel error allowed two runners to score making it 3-2. South would tack on an insurance run in the top of the seventh, but really didn't need it as the Cardinals went down quietly in their final at bats.

Despite not making it all the way to the Final Four, the distance Canfield went in the tournament was a testament to a team that was short on experience heading into 2018.

"With only two returning starters from last year's team, I didn't know what to expect," said Melewski. "I knew we had the talent, but not the varsity experience. We had ups and downs throughout the season, but I think we started to gel late in the year."

It was a 5-2 loss at Uniontown Lake in early May that Coach Melewski pointed to as the catalyst to a huge performance the remainder of the season. After that loss, the Canfield kids caught fire and were able to capture a conference championship.

"Sometimes a loss turns the direction of a team," said Melewski. "They came together for a purpose and that was to win the AAC league title outright. They didn't want to share it with Poland. We then turned our sites on the tournament and beat Austintown Fitch for the third time and Nordonia in the district championship."

Although Canfield will be saying goodbye to seniors such as Jill Baker, McKenna Carey, Chloe Cruz, Sydney Fabry and Taylor Lampe, Gross will be coming back for her for third season and she's bringing big time reinforcements with her. Brooke Crissman, Mallory Vaclav and Kalin Kovach will all be seniors next season and will be just a few of the seasoned Cardinals that Melewski will have the luxury of penciling into his starting lineup. Before looking forward to 2019, however, the coach took one last minute to reminisce about 2018.

"I enjoyed watching these girls play," said Melewski. "Their hearts were in the game, on the field and in the dugout. I couldn't be more proud of them."



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