September 22, 2014

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Little League softball: Elyria Junior All-Stars suffer first regional loss amid distractions, errors

Elyria's April Howser connects with a pitch Monday during a 7-5 loss. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Elyria’s April Howser connects with a pitch Monday during a 7-5 loss. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

AKRON — These are sad facts, but true: unearned runs count the same as the other kind, and unearned runs can defeat a team just as decisively.

Elyria’s Little League Junior All-Stars won a Central Regional game Saturday despite making a gift of two unearned runs in the first inning.

They weren’t so lucky Monday.

Elyria surrendered three unearned runs to Illinois in the first inning and they were the difference in a 7-5 defeat.

The loss — played in a surreal atmosphere — knocked the Elyria girls into the losers bracket.

They will resume their quest for the 14U regional championship at 11:30 this morning in Firestone Stadium.

The opponent will be Missouri, which defeated Wisconsin 5-3 later Monday in an elimination game.

The circumstances surrounding the loss to Illinois were distracting and borderline bizarre.

  • The game was played not in Firestone Stadium, but just outside on what is known as the Pony Field beyond the right-field fence. The site is next to a street-paving project which has disrupted traffic and parking in the area for more than a year.
  • Nearly half of it was played with the engine of a diesel tractor-trailer rig groaning loudly in the background. From the innards of this leviathan, television technicians removed equipment in preparation for the professional Akron Racers nationally televised night game against the Pennsylvania Rebellion.
  • For a touch of drama, players, coaches, umpires, spectators and others were ordered to leave the field and surrounding areas, and move to the other side of West Wilbeth Road because a natural gas line near the construction site had been punctured. Play was delayed for half an hour while repairs were made.
  • The Elyria staff and two others keeping scorebooks were convinced that a player listed on the Illinois roster had not been used. Under Little League rules, everyone must play. But the official scorer ruled she had played and simply had not been announced.

Trailing 3-0, Elyria sent eight batters to the plate in the second inning and tied the score after hits by Kaeli Evans, Sara Liszeski, Rybecca Kubisen and Emily Hyer. Evans, Liszeski and Kubisen scored, Kubisen on a hard shot to the left side by April Howser that the Illinois infield couldn’t handle.

Illinois added two runs in the third and sealed it in the fourth on Lauren Engels’ two-run homer.

Elyria threatened in the seventh when Kubisen and Howser scored. And the Elyria girls were one swing away from tying it, when the game ended with Alexis Reinhardt on third base and Gabby Shackelford on second.

“At the end of the game we had our runners in scoring position and a line-drive hitter up at the plate,” Elyria manager Len Howser said. “I’d say we played a little flat and made some mistakes, but you have to give the rest of the credit to them (Illinois). They did a great job. Their outfield was swarming and we hit a lot of hard balls.”

Howser said the interruption caused by the ruptured gas line was not a factor.

“I think the factor was we made too many mistakes in the first inning,” he said. “Our team plays hard and can come back, but eventually mistakes come back to haunt you. It’s hard to play through too many mistakes.”

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

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