September 20, 2014

Elyria
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Softball: Avon Lake beats Westlake, remains tied for 1st place

AVON LAKE — If unearned runs were unrecorded runs, it might have been a different story.

But as it turned out, Avon Lake’s two unearned runs weren’t the difference in its 6-1 Southwestern Conference win over Westlake on Thursday.

The seventh-ranked Shoregals got the offense going late, and when they did it produced four runs in their final two at-bats. As a result, they remain tied with fifth-ranked Brecksville for the SWC lead.

Avon Lake (16-1, 8-1 SWC) bounced back from its first loss of the season — 5-3 to Brecksville on Monday — with a win over Berea on Wednesday.

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Had Westlake pulled an upset Thursday, the Demons (9-9, 6-3) could have tied the Shoregals for second place in the conference.

It looked briefly as though they might. But when Caroline Hazapis, running for catcher Mackenzie Smith, scored on Lainey McCue’s first-inning double, it started and ended the Westlake scoring.

The Shoregals tied it with an unearned run of their own when Alexis Thomas came around as the Westlake infield airmailed Paige Collins’ routine grounder into right field. Collins ended up on third.

Catcher Abby Rogers, who led off the Avon Lake fourth with a double, also scored an unearned run when the Demons couldn’t handle Tori Meyer’s bunt.

The Shoregals scored their first earned run after Collins, who walked, went all the way to third on a wild pitch and scored on Morgan Turner’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.

They put it away in the sixth when Taylor Thomas and Ali Balthaser scored on pitcher Annie Wennerberg’s long triple to the left-field fence with one out. Wennerberg ran home on Alexis Thomas’ two-out double down the right-field line. Thomas was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple.

Wennerberg struck out 12 and walked only one in earning her 12th victory in 13 decisions. She said the team’s slow offensive start was unusual.

“We usually come right out in the first inning, but today we were struggling a little bit,” Wennerberg said. “But we all rallied, picked each other up and our hits started falling.”

Balthaser later said she has been slumping at the plate. But she reached base in three plate appearances, hit two singles and was the only Shoregal with more than one hit.

“I’ve been in a bit of a slump,” she said. “So I knew I had to be aggressive at the plate today.”

Westlake coach Tom Shiban pointed to the Demons defense, which made three errors.

“Unfortunately, we kicked the ball around a little bit today,” he said. “We weren’t at all sharp in the field and against a great team like Avon Lake, you can’t afford to make those mistakes. We hit the ball well early in the game, but as it went on, I thought (Wennerberg) got better and better.”

Shoregals coach Buzz Mullen praised Wennerberg’s work in the circle. He also said the team’s key hits in the late innings made the difference.

“It was sloppy on both sides in the beginning,” Mullen said. “But I told the girls to fight through it, and they did. We knew that (the Demons) weren’t the best team fielding bunts. So I told the girls we’re going to bunt until they get it right. Then we came up with a couple of key doubles and a triple and that was the game.”

Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or softball@bobdaniels.info.