AKRON — It seemed to take forever for the offense to come alive. But when it did, Elyria’s Little League Junior All-Stars were in business.
Sparked by two big extra-base hits, they put together a five-run, bat-around fourth inning Saturday at Firestone Stadium.
That carried Elyria to a come-from-behind 6-4 victory over Jeffersonville, Ind., in a first-round Central Region tournament game.
The winner of the double-elimination regional advances to the 14U softball World Series in Kirkland, Wash., on Aug. 10-16.
Jeffersonville, the Indiana state champion, had outscored its previous tournament opponents by a combined 77-8.
Elyria returns to action against Illinois at 8:30 this morning on the Firestone main diamond.
Thanks to two costly errors, the Elyrians surrendered two unearned runs in the first inning. They got out of trouble by turning a double play with one out and the bases loaded.
The Elyrians had only two hits through three innings and were retired in order on only four pitches in the third. But they produced all the offense they needed in the fourth.
Center fielder Kaeli Evans led off with a single to right and shortstop Gabby Shackelford ruined the shutout when she followed with a ringing triple to the gap in right-center. With one out, Shackelford scored on Sara Liszeski’s single and Liszeski ran to third when the Indiana outfield threw the ball away.
Haley Schultz drove Liszeski home and reached base with an RBI fielder’s choice, and Schultz scored on Emily Hyer’s single to right. Pitcher April Howser then unloaded a two-out double that sent Hyer running home with Elyria’s fifth and eventual winning run.
“I was seeing the ball really well,” Liszeski said. “I practice hitting a lot. I hit at practice and I hit at home quite a lot.”
Indiana cut the lead to 5-4 with a two-run sixth inning, but Howser got out of the jam with her fifth strikeout and a grounder to her in the circle. Elyria added a tension-easing run in the sixth after Hyer singled again and scored on Howser’s two-out RBI single to center.
Howser said she was a little nervous after Indiana added two runs in the sixth.
“But I knew we would come back and probably hit the ball,” she said. “It took us a while, but we eventually did. I was glad when we scored our last run because I was afraid to go into that next inning only one ahead.”
Liszeski and Howser each had three hits and Hyer hit two singles and scored twice. Meghan Lay went 4-for-4 for Indiana.
Elyria manager Len Howser said he liked the way his team fought back.
“All I can say is that Indiana team is outstanding,” he said. “They came in here with a lot of confidence and I thought our girls played extremely smart, and they showed a lot of guts and determination. They were down early and we were in a bases-loaded situation. But they were able to shut that off.
“And then they were able to turn it around and get the bats going. I think they played a very smart and determined game. I’m very proud of them.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.