November 27, 2014

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Little League softball: Elyria downs Avon to win 14U district title, advance to regional

Elyria’s Gabby Shackelford drives in a pair of runs with a single in the third inning Monday at Vic Janowicz Memorial Park. Elyria downed Avon 8-1 to advance to this weekend’s 14U regional tournament in Akron. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Elyria’s Gabby Shackelford drives in a pair of runs with a single in the third inning Monday at Vic Janowicz Memorial Park. Elyria downed Avon 8-1 to advance to this weekend’s 14U regional tournament in Akron. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — The first time they faced Avon pitcher Hannah Boesger on Monday night at Vic Janowicz Memorial Park, the Elyria batters went hitless.

But when leadoff hitter April Howser doubled to the left-field fence with one out in the third inning, she changed everything.

Her gapper sparked the first of four consecutive two-run innings as Elyria’s 14U Little League Junior All-Stars routed Avon 8-1 to win the District 3 championship.

As a result, the Elyria girls advance to the multistate regional tournament in Akron’s Firestone Stadium at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The opponent will be announced.

Howser had two doubles, an RBI, scored twice and reached base in four straight at-bats.

She and catcher Alexis Reinhardt, who singled, scored on Gabby Shackelford’s two-out single to right for all the runs Elyria needed.

Howser also earned the pitching decision and had a shutout until Avon scored with two outs in the seventh inning.

“Batting is my favorite part of the game,” April Howser said, “so I like going up there, starting things for my team and getting a rally going. Our team is a good hitting team and I knew that eventually we would break through.”

After going 2⅓ innings without a hit, Elyria had seven hits over the next three-plus innings. Shackelford said the team spends significant practice time on its hitting.

“I do believe that one of our strong points is hitting the ball,” she said. “With our practices, we spend more than half our time batting. Before the beginning of the game, we were talking about how awesome it would be (to win the district championship). I think it’s just now kicking in that we’ve done it.”

Elyria manager Len Howser was delighted with the victory.

“The girls on this team practice hard, they stay focused the entire game and they’ve hit extraordinarily well in the district tournament,” he said. “It’s really important for us to hit the ball well. We practice hitting probably 50 percent of any practice we have in a variety of ways: tees, Wiffles, front toss and off live pitching.

“The girls watch a lot of tape. I send them a lot of video of the top college hitters, and I ask them to compare their swing to those swings and to try to find the mechanics of the most successful hitters.”

April Howser’s second straight double scored Haley Schultz, who reached on a one-out error in the fourth, and Howser scored when Reinhardt also reached on an error. Kaeli Evans, who bunted for a single leading off the fifth inning, scored on Emily Hyer’s single to left field.

And Sara Liszeski, who walked, ran home on Hyer’s single to left. Evans and Liszeski also scored in the sixth.

Gabby Wegoner scored Avon’s run, which was unearned, on Megan Dean’s grounder to the circle in the seventh inning.

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

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