STATE SOFTBALL: Elyria 2, Mason 1
Pioneers’ Bashak mystifies Comets
ASHLAND — Ken Fenik no doubt is happy his pitcher proved him to be not so prophetic.
“We need more runs,” the Elyria softball coach said during an hour-long — give or take a few minutes — rain-lightning delay Friday at the Division I state tournament semifinal. “Two runs isn’t going to do it.”
Two runs DID do it, thanks to Megan Bashak. Elyria’s junior left-hander stifled Mason over the final five innings, including two that followed what must have felt like to Bashak an interminable hiatus. She shook off a rough second inning to allow only two hits and two baserunners as the Pioneers nursed a
2-1 lead that eventually stood up.
Bashak walked none and struck out five over the final five. She yielded an infield single to her Mason counterpart, Carly Miller, in the third, and a two-out bunt single in the fifth. An error by Bashak herself, in the sixth, put the other runner aboard.
But while Bashak was stifling the Comets, Elyria was having severe difficulties trying to hit Miller’s pitches. It wasn’t as if Miller was overpowering — she struck out only three — but she induced the Pioneers into wholesale popups and lazy fly balls.
And that was the source of Fenik’s concern while the players were putting their feet up during periodic rumbles of thunder.
“You hit the nail on the head,” Fenik said. “They need to start putting the ball on the ground. We’re getting just under the ball. It’s something in her delivery.”
Prior to the rain delay, 10 of Elyria’s first 14 outs were via fly balls. The other four happened because of two sacrifice bunts, one strikeout and one groundball.
The one groundball out the Comets recorded proved to be the luckiest break they received in the game, although it didn’t look like it at the time.
The hardest hit ball off Miller was by Kristin Sito in the second inning. Sito drilled a 3-2 pitch up the middle that struck Miller on her left leg, causing her to hit the ground in a heap. Fortunately for Mason, the ball headed straight for first base, where Sara Rye picked it up to retire Sito.
Even more fortunate for the Comets was that had Miller gotten out of the way of Sito’s smash, the ball certainly would have gotten into center field. With two outs and runners taking off from second and third, it would have given the Pioneers a 4-0 lead.
“That was a hit all the way,” Fenik said. “It was going through. That would have changed the game.”
Still, Miller appeared to be in a great deal of pain. The ball struck her left ankle, a place it didn’t need to strike. Miller has undergone five surgeries on her left leg.
“I didn’t know that,” Fenik said. “Obviously, she’s a tough kid.”
“Shoot,” Miller said when asked what her reaction was to being clobbered on her bad leg. “It hurt a lot, but I knew I was going to have to play through it. I guess it made me mad.”
Angry enough to finish the game and retire the next seven batters until Sarah Bracey broke up Miller’s no-hitter with a ground-ball single to center in the fifth inning.
Miller was effective once play resumed, too. She coaxed the Pioneers into five more outs on popups in the last two innings. She gave up only a solid single to left by Jess Mandula and a walk to Bashak in the sixth.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TOM MAHL / CHRONICLE
Tess Sito (left), Megan Bashak and Andrea Stolarski celebrate after the final out in Elyria High’s 2-1 victory. over Mason in the state softball semifinals in Ashland on Friday. Elyria faces Hudson for a state title in Ashland at 3 p.m. today. A police escort will accompany the team bus down Middle Avenue today prior to the team’s departure for the title game shortly after noon, and supporters are encouraged to see the team off and show their support as the caravan passes through on its way to Ashland.