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Shutout loss to Lady Spartans send Canfield girls home from playoffs

May 14, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The underwhelming 2019 season for the Canfield softball team came to a quiet ending last Wednesday night in Boardman.

Canfield's ladies struggled all evening against Lady Spartans' starting pitcher Madi Lester in a 6-0 loss in the Division I Solon District sectional final. The Lady Cardinals end the campaign with a substandard (in Canfield terms) 8-11 record.

"It was a struggle all year," said Canfield head coach Ray Melewski after the sectional final setback.

The struggle was real versus Lester in the championship contest. Boardman's fabulous freshman scattered six hits and struck out a dozen Cardinals in her complete game gem. That doesn't mean that Canfield didn't have its chances to break through, however. With two outs in the top of the second inning, Bridget Kelly cracked a double for the Cardinals to try to jumpstart a rally. With runners on first and third, Canfield's Liz Ferraro struck out ending that uprising.

Down 2-0 three frames later, the Cardinals tried another two out uprising. With a runner on first base, Canfield's powerful Kalin Kovach came to the plate with an opportunity to tie the game with one swing of her mighty bat. In fact, Kovach had homered in a previous game with the Spartans this season, so her power was not lost on the Boardman coaching staff. The senior drew a 3-0 count off of the unbreakable Lester. Unfazed, Boardman's remarkable rookie didn't give in and kept after Kovach. Three consecutive strikes to Canfield's slugger put the kibosh on that scoring possibility. Making that missed opportunity even more glaring was the four runs the Spartans sent home in the bottom of the fifth. With Lester's mastery, there was no way Melewski's kids were going to catch up.

"We couldn't catch up with (Lester's) pitches," said Melewski.

The Cardinals were able to catch up to both Twinsburg and Warren Harding in the two games prior to losing to the Spartans. Fifth seeded Canfield trounced twelfth seed Twinsburg 18-5 in the sectional semifinal on May 6. In between the two tournament tilts, the Cardinals upended Warren Harding 6-2 on the school's annual Senior Night. On cue, seniors Brooke Crissman and Mary Gomez had huge games against the Lady Raiders. Crissman was the starting pitcher and worked four impactful innings. She combined with sophomore Lauren Fitzgerald on a five-hitter. The duo also struck out four Raiders. Gomez grabbed two hits in the game. Kelly and junior Aiden Orlovsky had three hits for the winners. The contributions of Crissman, Gomez, Kovach and third baseman Mallory Vaclav all year was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise rainy regular season for the usual title contending Cards.

"This season didn't turn out the way we hoped," said Melewski. "Those four seniors held us together."

With players such as Fitzgerald, Kinnick, Orlovsky and Kelly set to return in 2020, it looks like the Canfield club will once again have the foundation to regain its championship vision. As always, the Canfield program will have a group of freshmen ready to take the next step in their varsity progression as sophomores and an influx of new ninth-graders waiting in the wings. Thanks to that infusion of talent the Redbirds may not be far away from reinforcing themselves in the district tournament picture.



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