NORTH RIDGEVILLE — It was just a matter of time until Elyria got its offense in gear Tuesday afternoon.
When that happened in the fourth inning, the Pioneers put their Division I district semifinal with Westlake out of reach.
The final score was 8-1 as senior Caitlyn Minney pitched a 12-strikeout two-hitter for her 18th win in 21 decisions. The run was unearned.
“Everybody just came out strong today,” Minney said. “It was nice and warm and we were ready to play.”
The third-ranked Pioneers (23-5) earned a district final date with No. 4 Avon Lake at 4:30 this afternoon at North Ridgeville High School. The Shoregals advanced with a 4-1 victory over North Ridgeville in Tuesday’s second game.
The list of contributions by Minney’s teammates is long. Fellow senior Holly Howser hit a two-run homer, a single and put up three RBIs, and freshman Carly Bachna celebrated her 15th birthday with a single and double.
“I haven’t really been hitting well,” Howser said. “I mean, OK, but not up to my potential. My dad (Len) and I talked about it yesterday, I knew after that strikeout (in Tuesday’s first at-bat) I wanted to take advantage of every at-bat I get. I just saw the ball and ripped it.”
Bachna, the birthday girl, said her performance started with calming down.
“You just have to get the nerves out of the way and do what you,” she said. “Plus it’s hot, so you have to drink a lot of water.”
Three other seniors started the five-run, fourth-inning rally that put Elyria in control. Marie Masters led off with a walk, Patty Davis followed with a single to left field and they scored on Alexis Roseboro’s single, which the Demons outfield had trouble controlling.
Roseboro scored on Howser’s single to center, Howser scored on Kaitlin Laseke’s single to right and Laseke scored on Haley Looney’s grounder to the right side.
Bachna led off the Pioneers’ three-run sixth with a double to the fence in left, the first of three straight extra-base hits. Howser followed with her homer over the center-field fence and Minney hit a first-pitch double to left. Jessica Sito, running for Minney, scored Elyria’s final run on Looney’s single up the middle.
“Caitlyn was certainly on her game today,” said Pioneers coach Ken Fenik, who posted his 451st career victory in his 19th season. “She was very powerful, we got hits when we needed them and we made them (Demons) throw the ball around a little bit.”
Westlake (18-11) got another strong outing from freshman pitcher Katie Lew, who struck out seven and walked only two. She had a one-hit shutout going until Masters, Davis and Roseboro went to work opening the fourth inning.
The Demons scored their unearned run in the seventh when sophomore cleanup batter Lainey McCue singled on a one-strike pitch. She ran all the way home when the Pioneers mishandled the hit and the cutoff throw.
Fenik said he was ready to call time and talk to his defense after Westlake scored its run.
“I was gonna say, ‘Come on, guys, let’s chill,’” he said. “But you know what? That’s just a reminder of how we’ve played some games this year. It’s a reminder that at any second, you can get discombobulated and let down. I’ll talk to them about that tomorrow. You can never let down in these games.”
Westlake coach Tom Shiban said the Demons knew Elyria had good hitters in the lineup and that it wouldn’t help to make errors in the field.
“Unfortunately, we made a couple, but, overall, they hit the ball better than we did,” Shiban said. “That’s what it boiled down to. Their pitcher did a very nice job. We played pretty well defensively, but that one inning got away from us a little bit.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.