ASHLAND — Elyria’s softball team is undefeated no longer.
The Pioneers lost twice Saturday in the 21st Wendy’s Spring Classic that was rearranged by wet grounds from Brookside Park and Brookside West to other diamonds in Ashland County.
Columbia, playing in Loudonville 20 miles south, split its two Saturday games in the 24-team invitational that attracted schools from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and New Jersey.
The Raiders (3-2) lost 8-2 to Columbus Bishop Ready in the morning, then rebounded with an afternoon victory over Windham by the same score.
The Pioneers (5-2) took a 2-0 lead on Lebanon of Southwestern Ohio in their morning opener, but couldn’t hold on in a 5-2 loss, their first of the season. This is the same Lebanon that defeated Elyria 3-1 in a 2012 state semifinal in Akron.
Elyria then fell 6-0 to Walsh Jesuit of Cuyahoga Falls in the afternoon. Without the Pioneers’ disastrous second inning, the Walsh game might have taken a different turn.
It didn’t, but Coach Ken Fenik said the good news was his younger players learned from the experience of playing top opponents.
“We talked as a group after we got off the bus this morning and we told them, ‘We’re going to play the big dogs,’” Fenik said. “We wanted to get better from this weekend, which we did. Maybe I should have switched the lineup around a little more for the second game, but you have to try things out and it’s places like this where you can do that.
“I told them I wanted to get better getting our bunts down, which we didn’t in that first game. But we did better in the second. I’m not in any way ashamed of the way we played, I’m actually proud of them. We got to see a lot of people we haven’t had a chance to see and they got to go against some good competition.”
Elyria has only two seniors, the Laseke twins, Kandis and Kaitlyn. There are five juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen, Veronica Zack and Dierra Hammons.
Visiting Walsh scored an unearned run in the first inning and the Pioneers had a chance to tie in the home half. But they left Kandis Laseke on third.
Then the Warriors scored four times in the second inning, all after two outs. The big blow was a towering 250-foot-plus three-run homer by junior shortstop Lilli Piper. Elyria sophomore Carly Bachna relieved starter Ashley Olszewski, also a sophomore, and allowed just one more run while scattering five hits.
“All I can do is just warm up before the game, then come in a do the stuff I can do,” Bachna said of preparing for relief appearances. “All my pitches were working, and I threw mostly fastballs.”
She added: “We had really good competition this weekend, played some really good teams. We just came out and tried to play our hardest.”
The Pioneers’ two hits against Walsh were a neatly placed bunt single by Kaitlyn Laseke in the fourth inning and Elizabeth Ellis’s sharp single to right field in the sixth. Elyria had just four baserunners, two on walks issued by freshman pitcher Madi McCrady. Walsh coach Bill Davis said McCrady is the team’s No. 2 pitcher.
Like Fenik, Columbia coach Ken Lugo said he was pleased with the weekend because his younger players learned from it. The defending state runner-up Raiders, making their first appearance in the tourney, lost a lot of talent at graduation last spring.
“Our pitchers are starting to get back into the groove and they’re building their stamina,” he said. “I was happy with our hitting. No one did anything outstanding and nobody hit home runs, but we’re spreading the hits around and we’re starting to see the ball much better.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.