September 22, 2014

Elyria
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District softball: Avon Lake heats up, shuts down North Ridgeville

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Avon Lake played like a team on a mission Tuesday.

Actually, the Shoregals played a lot like the No. 4-ranked Division I team in the state on a mission after a long layoff.

Which worked out just fine for the Shoregals.

Alexis Thomas and Abby Rogers had key two-out hits and Annie Wennerberg threw a complete-game one-hitter as Avon Lake downed North Ridgeville 4-1 in a district semifinal.

The Shoregals (25-1) hadn’t played since winning the sectional championship against Midview last Wednesday and it took them a few innings to bring their bats back to life.

Wennerberg started things off with a single to center field with one out in the third. She stole second and third and came home, along with Allison Theberge, on a double by Thomas.

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“I felt like we started a little flat today so I was glad my hit could spark the offense,” said Thomas, a senior third baseman. “We were a little nervous because this was such a crucial game. It took us a few innings to settle in.”

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Wennerberg wasn’t affected by nerves or inactivity, she said, and it showed as she retired the first 14 Rangers she faced before allowing a two-out fifth-inning walk to Ashley Helmink.

She didn’t allow a hit until the seventh inning on her way to an 11-strikeout performance.

“I wasn’t really nervous, I just knew it would be a tough game,” Wennerberg said. “I just had to remind myself that I have done this a million times before. I knew I hadn’t allowed a hit going into the seventh but I didn’t let it get to me.”

North Ridgeville’s one hit came from Jenna Yost, whose single skipped past a charging Tori Meyer in center field and rolled to the fence. That allowed Kendra Moore, who led off the inning with a walk, to score.

“(Wennerberg) pitched a good game, you can’t take anything away from her,” North Ridgeville coach Norm Frindt said after his Rangers ended the season 19-6. “They were hitting them where we weren’t and we were hitting them where they were. Sometimes you have to catch a break or two to beat a good team and we just didn’t get any today.”

The game marked the end of the line for Frindt, who is retiring after 33 years in the Rangers dugout.

“Truthfully, it has been 33 years and I have seen just about everything,” he said. “I’ve worn myself out over the years, so I feel like I’ve had enough. I wish this season could have lasted a few games longer but I’m content and ready to go.”

The Shoregals extended their lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning on a two-out double from Rogers that scored Thomas and Paige Collins.

Avon Lake plays Elyria, the top seed and the third-ranked team in the state, in today’s district final at 4:30 p.m. at North Ridgeville. The Pioneers, who downed Westlake Tuesday, eliminated Avon Lake 2-1 in the district semifinals last season.

“I told the girls in the huddle after the game, you’ve accomplished Goal 2, getting to the district finals,’” Avon Lake coach Buzz Mullen said. “Goal No. 1 was to win the conference. We know it’s going to be a tough game but we know if we come out and play our game it’s going to be another close one just like last year, except we want to reverse the roles and come out on top.”

Asked about her level of excitement for today’s district final, Thomas probably summed up the thoughts of most of her teammates.

“I don’t think I am going to sleep tonight,” she said.

Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.