The Pioneers avenged last year’s opening-day loss at Mentor, defeating the Cardinals 6-3 at the Elyria Softball Complex.
Elyria had its bats in midseason form, pounding out eight hits. And senior pitcher Caitlyn Minney picked up where she left off last season by taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning on her way to a 13-strikeout performance.
Minney had two singles, and leadoff hitter Haley Looney had a single and double to lead the offensive attack.
“We had some good hits today,” said coach Ken Fenik, whose Pioneers went 26-3 last year. “We’re just happy to get a game in. A lot of teams went south but we wanted to get some games in on our field. I thought Caitlyn pitched well today considering the conditions. It’s hard to pitch when it’s this cold.”
The first-pitch temperature was in the mid-30s and a stiff breeze blew in from right field in the latter innings.
Mentor (0-1) took advantage of a couple of Elyria defensive miscues to score the first run of the game in the second inning. After that unearned run, Minney retired the next 10 Cardinals before allowing a pair of fifth-inning walks.
Elyria sent eight batters to the plate in the third inning, scoring four run to take the lead. Looney started the rally with a double into the right-field corner.
Following a Marie Masters walk, Holly Howser drove home Looney with a fielder’s choice to short. Alexis Roseboro and MacKenzie Phares added RBIs.
“When we lost to Mentor last year it was a really tough way to start the season. This year we knew we had them on our home field and we were really pumped, so it feels good to get this win,” said Howser, the right fielder. “It is tough mentally to stay prepared in this cold weather, but we knew we had to be the tough guys today, we fought hard as a team.
“After being in the gym for a month practicing, it just felt good to be outside. As an outfielder you really can’t get anything done inside.”
The Pioneers added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Masters, and an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Looney singled home courtesy runner Kandis Laseke.
Mentor made things interesting in its half of the sixth, getting its first four hits of the game. The key blow was a one-out, two-run double by freshman Allison Golic, the Cardinals’ only extra-base hit. But Minney settled down to retire the next two batters to end the rally.
“It can be hard pitching in the cold, but I had to just focus and throw harder and make sure every pitch was perfect,” said Minney, who was a Division I All-Ohio pitcher as a junior. “We’ve had to read in the newspaper for the last year about the opening-day loss, so we had to make sure it didn’t happen again. We were really ready for this game.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.