AKRON — After four games in three days, with rain delays and 5 a.m. wake-up calls mixed in for good measure, the Elyria East Little League Junior all-stars find themselves right where they want to be.
In the Central Regional semifinals, that is.
Elyria East (3-1) split a pair of games Monday, the final day of pool play, defeating Grandview (Iowa) 11-1 and losing to Escanaba (Michigan) 12-9 to finish second in the five-team American League bracket. They will play Poland, the other Ohio team in the field and the winner of the National League bracket, at 4 p.m. today at Firestone Stadium.
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Before its game with Escanaba, Elyria East already knew it was headed to the semifinal. With that in mind, the East all-stars, at least early on, looked like a team with little to play for.
Escanaba (4-0) jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first inning and extended its advantage to 11-1 by the middle of the third.
That’s when Elyria decided to strap on its helmets and try to make a game of it. Elizabeth Ellis and Biddy Pronesti drove in runs in a three-run third to make the score 11-4. In the fourth, Carly Bachna hit a three-run home run that was still rising as it cleared the 200-foot fence in left field to bring her team back to within 11-7.
“It was just a great pitch to hit,” said Bachna, who hit nine home runs with her travel team this season. “She threw me a fastball and I was just looking to make contact, but I got a good swing and the ball really flew off the bat, it was really exciting. I think my home run gave everybody else on my team confidence that we could hit against this team and we could come back.”
Although Elyria failed to complete the comeback, it did have plenty of chances, leaving six runners on base of the final three innings.
“I always tell me teams I hate losing, but these girls fought until the final out and never showed any signs of quitting so I’m OK with the results today,” Elyria East manager Chris Sito said.
“We know we can score runs and we’re in good shape with our pitching, so we’re right where we need to be. Just from being around the girls and hearing them talking in the dugout, I know how important this is to them and how much they want to go to Washington so I know we will be ready for the semifinals.”
Elyria East outmatched Grandview in opening game of the day, scoring three runs in the first inning and never looking back. Seven of Elyria’s 11 hits were doubles and it also took advantage of six Grandview errors.
Pitchers Jessica Sito and Ashley Olszewski combined to hold Grandview (0-4) to three hits and just one unearned run.
After a first-inning single, Madison Fullmer stole second and third to set the tone for the game. Sito and Ellis both had two doubles.
Against Escanaba, Elyria East knocked out 16 hits. Sybil Roseboro led the way, going 4-for-5 with a stolen base and three runs scored.
Minutes after Monday’s games ended Bachna was already think about how she would prepare for the semifinal matchup.
“I’m going to get a lot of sleep tonight, drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and keep myself mentally prepared,” she said. “We are all ready to do whatever it takes to win because we really want to go to Washington.”
The winner of Wednesday’s championship game will travel to Kirkland, Wash., for the Little League Junior World Series.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.