Clutch home run in 7th saves the day, then clutch hit in 8th sends Pioneers back
to state tourney
CLYDE — Senior Andrea Nagy launched a drive to the fence in right-center field on Saturday, sending Jess Bellottie home with the winning run and Elyria High’s softball team to its second straight Division I Final Four.
It was a thrilling end to an eight-inning nail-biter that saw the Pioneers come from behind twice to win the Clyde regional championship at Joe Wilson Field. Bellottie, who was on third when Nagy came to bat, was mobbed by teammates when she ran home with the winning run in a 5-4 victory over Strongsville.
Bellottie led off the inning with a single to center, her third hit of the game in four at-bats.
“I’ve had a bad problem with pop-ups and I saw it go up in the air,” Nagy said of her winning hit. “But I thought as long as it’s going to the outfield, (Bellottie) can tag, we can score and I don’t care if it’s a pop-up.”
Bellottie, standing on third, was confident when Nagy stepped to the plate.
“I knew she was going to hit it,” Bellottie said. “She’s a strong hitter. I was real excited when she got her hit. I was like, ‘Yeah, she hit it.’”
It was the Pioneers’ third victory this season over their Pioneer Conference rival. Elyria won the first meeting 6-1 and the second 3-2.
Another senior, center fielder Kristin Sito, picked the Pioneers up emotionally and made the extra inning possible. They trailed 4-3 in the seventh, just three outs from extinction.
But Sito, leading off, hit a first-pitch fastball over the fence in left-center to tie the score.
Her blast turned the game around.
“I just freaked out when I saw that ball take off,” she said. “I was so happy, I couldn’t even breathe by the time I got in the dugout.”
The No. 1-ranked Pioneers (29-3) advance to a state semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Ashland’s Brookside Park. They’ll be the visiting team against Mason (17-14) of the Cincinnati area. Mason defeated Clayton Northmont 4-3 on Saturday for the Dayton regional title.
The Pioneers’ 29 victories are one better than the school record set last year when essentially the same team finished second in the state behind North Canton Hoover.
This marks the Elyria’s fifth appearance in the Final Four and the first time they’ve made consecutive trips to Ashland. Elyria is the only Lorain County team other than Keystone to make the Final Four. The Pioneers qualified in 2006, ’02, ’00 and 1994. They won the state championship in ’02.
Elyria coach Ken Fenik was ecstatic.
“It would be nice to win one (by a wider margin),” said Fenik, whose team also won its two district games and regional semifinal by a single run. “I keep looking at our fans over there every game and they’re like pacing, walking back and forth. I know their blood pressure goes up watching us play.”
And he liked the way his three seniors played.
“I tell you what, Nags (Nagy) is a clutch player,” Fenik said. “All year long, she’s been making plays for us. She’s a super, super shortstop. When she went to bat (in the eighth), I had a feeling she was going to come through. All the seniors today were just awesome. Look at Kristin Sito with that blast, and Andrea Stolarski made a lot of great plays over at first base.”
Elyria took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Kristin Sito led off with a single to center, moved to second on Nagy’s sacrifice and scored on a sharp single to center by her cousin, Tess Sito.
The Mustangs responded with two runs in the second, but Elyria tied the score with another run in the third. This time Nagy, who drilled a one-out triple to the gap in right-center, ran home when junior Jen Bower singled to right with two outs.
Strongsville again took the lead with a run in the fifth, but the Pioneers bounced back again in the sixth. Freshman Ashley Stolarski, running for Bower, who led off with a double to left-center, scored when her sister, Andrea, reached on a ground-ball fielder’s choice.
The Pioneers fell behind 4-3 when Strongsville scored again in the seventh, but it set the stage for Kristin Sito. She led off the Elyria seventh with her first-pitch homer, which, officially, was her first of the season. She claims she has two.
“The last time we played Strongsville, I hit one over the fence but they called it a double because they thought it skipped through the fence,” said Sito. “So this time I just made sure they didn’t call it a double.”
Having led off the seventh with her third single of the afternoon, Bellottie moved to second on Sarah Bracey’s nearly perfect sacrifice bunt. After Bellottie went to third on a passed ball, Kristin Sito reached on a fielder’s choice when the Mustangs’ infield decided to make a play for Bellottie, who had ventured off third base.
It brought up Nagy, who hit a drive on a 2-0 pitch that hit the fence in right-center on one bounce. It almost certainly would have scored Sito and might have gone for Nagy’s second triple of the day. But with Bellottie already home, it was academic.
Megan Bashak, the Pioneers’ No. 1 pitcher, started in the circle. But Fenik said she was having trouble hitting her spots, so he relieved her with Tess Sito with two on and one out in the Strongsville fourth.
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Resek 3 0 1 0 K Sito 4 2 2 1
Kolzynski 3 0 0 0 Nagy 3 1 2 1
Wovna 4 2 2 0 T Sito 3 0 1 1
Bertoncin 3 0 0 0 Bower 3 0 2 1
Gaab 4 1 2 1 AshStlrski 0 1 0 0
Bogdan 3 1 2 1 Bashak 3 0 0 0
Huffman 4 0 2 2 Mandula 3 0 0 0
Peskura 2 0 0 0 AndStlrski 3 0 0 1
Perri 1 0 0 0 Bally 0 0 0 0
Mariano 3 0 2 0 Bellottie 4 1 3 0
Cioletti 3 0 2 0 Bracey 3 0 0 0
Dzurnak 0 0 0 0
Totals 33 4 11 4 Totals 29 5 10 5
Strongsville 020 010 10 — 4
Elyria 101 001 11— 5
One out when winning run scored.
2B—Bower. 3B—Huffman, Nagy. HR—K. Sito. S—Resek, Bertoncin, Nagy, Bracey. SB—K. Sito. LOB—Strongsville 11, Elyria 11. E—Resek 2.
IP H R ER BB SO
Kolzynski(L,11-7) 7.1 11 5 5 1 3
Bashak 3.1 4 2 2 3 3
T.Sito(W,11-1) 4.2 7 2 2 2 1
WHAT: Division I state softball semifinal
WHO: No. 1 Elyria (29-3) vs. Mason (17-14)
WHEN: Friday, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Brookside Park, Ashland
CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Elyria High’s Jessica Bellottie (1) jumps into her teammates’ arms after scoring the winning run on an Andrea Nagy hit against Strongsville in the eighth inning Saturday at Clyde High School. The No 1-ranked Pioneers, last year’s Division I state runners-up, are headed back to the state tournament in Ashland.