state softball: hudson 4, elyria 0
Bad inning, lack of offense spoil Pioneers’ dream
ASHLAND — It all happened so quickly, it was nearly painless.
In a hail of gap-finding doubles and an RBI single, Hudson scored four times on top-ranked Elyria in the first inning on Saturday. The unranked Explorers then silenced the Pioneers’ bats, made the runs hold up and rolled to the Division I state softball championship, 4-0.
Mindy Meredith, Hudson’s freshman southpaw pitcher, struck out seven and walked none in hurling a five-hit shutout. A big crowd watched in Ashland’s Brookside Park.
It was the second straight year the Pioneers have been shut out in a state championship game. North Canton Hoover defeated Elyria, 2-0, in the 2006 state final. Coincidentally, Hudson nipped Hoover 2-0 last weekend to win the Akron regional title.
“We had one bad inning today and we continued to pop the ball up like we did yesterday,” said Elyria coach Ken Fenik.
The Pioneers hit 15 routine fly balls in Friday’s 2-1 semifinal victory over Mason. The runs were unearned and eight of the routine flies were caught by infielders.
Including Saturday’s shutout, the Pioneers have gone 15 straight innings without scoring in state championship games dating to 2002. They won the crown that year with two runs in the sixth inning against Cincinnati Sycamore. But they were blanked again in the seventh.
Elyria starter Megan Bashak surrendered four doubles and a single in hurling the first third of an inning. She was replaced by sophomore Tess Sito with one out and a Hudson runner on second less than 10 minutes into the game.
Sito shut down the Explorers on two hits the rest of the way and one of those — a grounder to the right side — might easily have been scored an error. She retired 15 of the 19 batters she faced, struck out one and walked one.
“Tess did a great job,” said Fenik. “For being a sophomore and getting thrown in there in a state championship game, she did an awesome job.”
Senior shortstop Andrea Nagy had two of the Pioneers’ five hits, a one-out single in the first inning and another with Kristin Sito on second base in the third. The second produced Elyria’s only scoring threat. Sito, who moved to second on a wild pitch, went to third on Nagy’s hit. And the Pioneers had runners at second and third with one out after Nagy stole second.
But Meredith got the next two batters on routine fly balls, one to shortstop and the other to right field. Of the eight fly balls Elyria hit against Meredith, seven never left the infield.
“It was depressing that we weren’t scoring and we needed to score,” said Kristin Sito, the senior center fielder. “We popped up because we were swinging for the fence. I mean, it’s great that we’re trying that hard to hit it, but we have to realize we just need a base hit. You don’t need a home run. Well, we needed four, but we really just needed base hits.”
Hudson’s Beth Cinadr, who’s headed to Purdue on a softball scholarship, led off the game with a double to the gap in left-center. Bashak struck out the next batter with a called-strike change-up, but Lindsey Bartos sent Cinadr home with another double to the gap in left-center.
Bartos scored on Mandy Krutzler’s single to center, and Krutzler went to third when Meredith followed with another double to the fence. Elizabeth Stokes, who followed, put it out of reach with a two-run double, which also found the left-center field gap.
Bashak, who traded places with Tess Sito in the first, played flawlessly at third base. She turned in three assists and a putout when she snagged a liner off the bat of Hudson’s Katey McCandless in the fourth.
It was the first state-final appearance for Hudson (28-3), which defeated Pickerington Central in a semifinal game on Friday. The game was the last in Elyria uniforms for Kristin Sito, Nagy and Stolarski, the team’s only seniors. The Pioneers, using the same players who started for the 2006 team, finished 30-4.
Despite the defeat, Nagy remained upbeat.
“Second place isn’t the worst we could have done,” she said. “We accomplished a lot of our goals and I’m happy we could do it. I wish it could have ended the other way, but it’s not as bad as it might seem.”
Under the leadership of the three seniors, the team posted a 58-10 record the past two seasons and were the Associated Press poll champions this spring.
“I feel bad for the girls, especially our seniors,” Fenik said. “I’m going to miss them dearly. We have definitely developed a close-knit bunch over the past two years. “
“We’ve all played together since we were like 8 and 10 and everything,” said Stolarski, the first baseman. We had good chemistry and we had a really good time together. We had a lot of fun.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Kristin Sito (left) and Ashlee Stolarski comfort one another Saturday in Ashland after the Pioneers lost in the Division I state finals for the second season in a row.