November 25, 2014

Elyria
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District Softball: Pioneers find special meaning in 10th straight district title

Elyria's Jessica Sitto slides into home, but is tagged out by Midview catcher Cassie Haight on Thursday at North Ridgeville High School. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Elyria’s Jessica Sitto slides into home, but is tagged out by Midview catcher Cassie Haight on Thursday at North Ridgeville High School. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Elyria has made winning district championships an annual tradition, as much a part of May as Memorial Day and the Indianapolis 500.

But the 5-0 win over Midview on Thursday in the Division I North Ridgeville district final — Elyria’s 10th straight title — still felt special.

It could have been because sophomore pitcher Elizabeth Ellis took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Morgan Hamker’s leadoff single.

It could have been because the Pioneers (21-7) did it with just one senior, catcher Kaitlyn Laseke, on the active roster.

Or maybe it was because many softball fans wrote off Elyria after coach Ken Fenik’s team started the year with a rather un-Elyria-like 10-5 record.

“We started playing our best ball in the tournament and that’s what you want as a coach,” Fenik said. “It was a transitional year after losing seven seniors. But the girls that stepped in this year learned so much from the girls last year, that’s the winning tradition we’ve built here at Elyria.”

That tradition was on display Thursday as a number of former Elyria players were on hand to cheer on this year’s edition of the Pioneers.

“I can’t say enough about my assistant coaches and our training staff that kept everyone motivated and healthy all season,” Fenik said. “We had some cards against us this year. I’m just ecstatic right now. This one is especially sweet.”

Ellis retired the first 15 Middies thanks in part to a stretch of incredible defensive play. In the first inning left fielder Anna Daly made a diving catch on a ball hit by Hamker.

Two innings later second baseman Mackenzie Phares dived to her left to snag a line drive off the bat of Cassie Haight. At third base freshman Dierra Hammons put on an exhibition of flawless fielding, recording three putouts and seven assists.

“Some days you’re hitting the ball where they’re not and some days you’re hitting the ball right at them,” said Midview coach Mike Ives, whose team concluded the year with a 21-5 record and a West Shore Conference championship. “They had three or four ESPN plays today. If we had an ESPN of high school softball, they would have some highlights on there tonight.”

Hammons said she wasn’t nervous before the biggest game of her career.

“I knew what I had to do and I knew my coaches had me prepared to do it,” Hammons said. “I have faith that if I make a mistake my teammates will pick me up, and that gives me confidence. I’ve wanted to play softball for Elyria High School for a long time and it feels great to be a part of this.”

Shortstop Carly Bachna led off the Pioneers’ two-run second inning with a single and scored on Kelsey Plato’s double. Plato went 3-for-3 against Midview freshman pitcher Lauren Landers.

“We came together as a team over the course of the season and everybody clicked,” Bachna said.

Ellis helped her cause with two hits, including a single in the three-run fifth inning.

“I was excited to pitch today. Everything was working today,” Ellis said. “Seeing the defense play the way it did today gives me so much confidence and pushes me to throw it even harder because I know they have my back.”

The Pioneers will face the winner of today’s Fostoria district final between Oregon Clay and Toledo Whitmer on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Clyde High School.

“I knew we were going be good this year but I didn’t know we were going to be this good,” Ives said. “I am proud of my team. We had remarkable senior leadership and we’re still young, so we will be around for another year or two.”

It was the fourth time in the past several years Elyria ended the Middies’ season. In 2010 and ’11 the teams met in the regional semifinals after Midview won the Parma district.

“My hat’s off to Elyria. I’ve said it before and I will say it again,” Ives said. “If Ken isn’t the best coach in the state of Ohio I would like someone to show me who is.”

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

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