AKRON — Extra innings, game tied at 5. Elyria East, the home team, retired the first two Michigan batters, and the No. 8 hitter was at the plate.
But sometimes bad dreams come true. It happened Monday afternoon.
Michigan third baseman Paige Poulter, facing a 1-1 count, hit the next pitch into left field. It was the first of four straight Michigan singles, the start of a three-run rally and the beginning of the end for Elyria.
Despite a rally of their own, the Elyrians couldn’t score again, stranding their 12th and 13th runners of the game.
That was an unfortunate statistic in an 8-5, eight-inning loss in the Little League Juniors regional tournament on Firestone Stadium’s Pony Field.
But it wasn’t all bad news for Elyria East, which ended pool play with a 3-1 record after a 13-3 mercy-rule rout of Missouri on Monday morning.
It sends them into the championship round against Canfield at 3 p.m. on Firestone’s main diamond. Pool A winner Michigan advances against Indiana of Pool B at noon.
The regional champion, to be crowned Wednesday, earns a berth in the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Wash.
“That was a good ballgame,” Elyria manager Mike Ellis said. “I knew it would be a typical Ohio-Michigan matchup. They made plays, we made plays. We turned a 4-6-3 double play (Kaylee Hummrich to Sammie Stefan to Lauren Shaw) that you don’t see in fastpitch softball very often.
“Our right fielder ran down a shot, (Hummrich) relayed the throw and got the runner at third,” he said. “But Michigan hit the ball, it’s as plain and simple as that. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who’s pitching for you if the other team is hitting the ball.”
Actually, Elyria outhit Michigan 13-12, but was unable to get key hits at critical times. The Elyrians left at least one runner on base every inning. The third, in which they took a 2-1 lead, ended with the bases loaded. And there were two left on base in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings and one in the
first, second, fifth and seventh.
The hit that did in Elyria was a two-run single — Michigan’s third straight hit — by shortstop Madyson Cole. Moments later, Cole created the final score when she ran home on a single by Rachel Pijaszek, who started at first base for Michigan, but became the winning pitcher.
Cole said that when she nailed her big hit, she thought: “Oh, goodness. I just hope those two runs score and no one gets out. I was pretty much confident after that, but I knew we still had to get three outs.”
Elyria first baseman-reliever Shaw and starter Elizabeth Ellis went 3-for-5. One of Shaw’s hits was a third-inning RBI double to the gap in left-center and she had an RBI single in the sixth. Shortstop Stefan had two hits.
In the morning victory over Missouri, Elyria had more than enough to win after a five-run first inning. East added five runs in the fourth and ended it with four in the fifth.
They got two triples and a single from Stefan, three singles by Macy Taylor, two doubles by Ellis and a triple by Shaw. Hummrich, Ashley Cascio, Hannah Taulbee and Emily Bobeck had Elyria’s other hits.
Pitchers Ellis, Shaw and Cascio teamed up for the victory.
“Whatever we asked the girls to do, they were able to do it,” Ellis said of the one-sided victory. “The way we ran the bases had people confused. We were sending runners from first to second and any bunts we got down, our girls were running from first to third without much problem. It was just a matter of getting girls on base and being able to play our game.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT: little League Juniors Central Regional Tournament semifinals
SCHEDULE: Michigan vs. Indiana, 12 p.m.; Elyria East vs. Canfield, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Firestone Stadium, Akron