AKRON — It only took one pitch for Elyria to realize it might be in trouble Thursday in the Division I state semifinals against Grove City.
Greyhound catcher Delaney Mixer smashed Elizabeth Ellis’ opening pitch into the left-field corner of Firestone Stadium for a double to set the tone in what ended up a 9-1 Grove City win.
“I should have expected them to come out hitting but I was a little rattled after that first hit,” said Ellis, a sophomore who finished the year with a 20-6 record said.
Thanks to fine defensive plays by Dierra Hammons at third base and Carly Bachna at shortstop, Ellis was able to keep the Greyhounds from scoring until the third inning.
That’s when the Pioneers’ championship dream got a rude awakening.
Grove City (26-6) sent 10 batters to the plate in the third inning, scoring six runs and chasing Ellis from the pitchers circle while putting the game almost out of reach.
The Greyhounds, ranked eighth in the state, got four hits and a walk while taking advantage of two Elyria errors. The big hit came off the bat of pinch hitter Kennedy Beach, whose single scored a pair of runs.
“Grove City is a good hitting team so I knew they would give us trouble,” Elyria coach Ken Fenik said. “But we played good defense in the first two innings. Then we got to the third inning and everything happened.”
The only thing better than Grove City’s offense was its pitching. Greyhounds starter Emma Cornell retired the first 15 hitters before walking Kelsey Plato to lead off the bottom of Cornell was one strike away from recording the first no-hitter in a Division I state tournament game since 1999 before Kaitlyn Laseke hit a line-drive single to center field on a 2-2 pitch.
Laseke’s single averted a scoring controversy as Bachna, who batted just before Laseke, hit a sharp grounder to short that bounced off the bare hand of Greyhounds shortstop Destini Ewing, allowing Bachna to reach first base safely.
As the Grove City trainer attended to Ewing, the scoreboard briefly recorded an Elyria hit before it was changed to an error.
Alex Dick extended the game for the 10th-ranked Pioneers with a two-out infield single that scored Bachna and allowed Elyria to avoid the shutout.
“We played as hard as we could,” Fenik said. “We were enthusiastic to the end, broke up a no-no and a shutout in the seventh inning. That’s what kind of team this has been all season.”
Senior Kandis Laseke, who has not played in a game since breaking her collarbone April 26, was able to put on an Elyria uniform for one last time and entered the game as a pinch runner for Plato in the sixth inning.
Cornell, who will play at Faulkner University in Alabama next year on a softball scholarship, said she was unaware that she had held Elyria hitless going into the seventh inning.
“I didn’t know I had a perfect game going into the sixth and I didn’t even know I still had a no-hitter going,” she said. “I was just trying to win the game.”
Cornell threw a perfect game earlier this year against Newark.
The Greyhounds will face three-time defending state champion North Canton Hoover in Saturday’s title game. The Vikings defeated previously unbeaten Lebanon 5-3 in the other semifinal.
“Cornell was in the top five of the toughest pitchers we’ve faced all season,” Ellis said. “I thought we got some momentum going our way when we worked out of the jams in the first two innings but the offense just didn’t come.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.