November 25, 2014

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High school softball: Westlake takes Falcon Quad Invitational championship

Westlake’s Erin Brown delivers a pitch Saturday during a victory over Vermilion in the championship game. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Westlake’s Erin Brown delivers a pitch Saturday during a victory over Vermilion in the championship game. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

SOUTH AMHERST — Southwestern Conference contender Westlake nearly pulled a huge upset when it battled the state’s third-ranked Brecksville Bees on Thursday.

Then the Demons, who wound up losing a one-run heartbreaker on the road, nearly became upset victims themselves Saturday.

They finally wiggled off the hook and went home with the Falcon Quad Invitational championship. But Westlake (18-4) had to hang on for a 5-4 title-game victory over sub-.500 Vermilion. The Sailors (11-15) rallied for a big sixth inning after falling behind 5-0.

The difference? Westlake’s unearned run in the third inning and senior Katie Nagel’s fence-clearing home run to lead off the second.

St. Joseph Academy of Cleveland (10-13) defeated prom-depleted Firelands 13-9 in the consolation game. The Jaguars had to come from behind after Firelands, also 10-13, took an early lead.

In the day’s openers, Westlake defeated St. Joe’s 11-1 and Vermilion topped Firelands 7-5.

Tom Shiban, the Demons’ veteran coach, said he considered the close call a positive experience for his team.

“Like I told the girls, I was glad the game got tight. You want to be in those tight situations so you know how to handle them,” Shiban said. “You have to be in pressure situations late in games so when it happens in the playoffs, you’re ready for them. It doesn’t do your team much good to win by eight or 10 runs every game.”

The Sailors sent seven batters to the plate in their four-run sixth. They got hits from Jessie Mello, Leigh Stanbrook, Carley Skettle and Jen Kovarik, plus a fielder’s choice by Sarah Bartlome, who later scored. Mello, Calli Brown, who walked, and Kovarik also crossed the plate during Vermilion’s uprising.

Sailors center fielder Sydney Virgin made the defensive play of the day, a running, diving, sliding catch that probably saved two runs in the seventh inning of the Sailors’ narrow win over Firelands.

Vermilion got a strong pitching effort from Becca Oates, who struck out five and walked just two in the title game.

Sailors coach Roger Wright said some mistakes hurt in the championship game, but that his young players are bound to improve.

“We have a young team and we always try to keep these guys up if they get down on themselves,” Wright said. “We had a really rough week, but we just kept working hard and preaching to them about what kind of talent they have, and that it’s important for them to finish strong.”

Firelands played at nearly full strength in its opener, missing only one player who had obligations related to Saturday night’s prom. But six more Falcons missed the nightcap with St. Joe’s to prepare for the night’s festivities.

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

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