AKRON — Elyria East Little League All-Stars coach Len Howser didn’t think his team played its best ball Tuesday. Somewhere on I-70 there is a group of girls headed back to Lexington, Mo., that might beg to differ.
Elyria East scored at least once in every inning on its way to 10-0, six-inning win to stay alive in the losers bracket of the Little League Junior Softball Central Regional tournament at Firestone Stadium.
Needing a win to keep its dream of advancing to the Junior World Series in Kirkland, Wash., alive, Elyria East scored a run in each of the first two innings after April Howser and Sara Liszeski reached base on Missouri errors.
Elyria East could have built its lead even quicker had it not left four runners on base, including three in scoring position.
“The girls played well against Missouri but, honestly, I felt like we were in third gear,” Howser said. “We had a meeting after the game. I had a couple of former Elyria High players talk to the team and tell them we better hit fourth gear or we’re not going anywhere.”
April Howser and Gabby Zerbini were hitting on all cylinders in the pitchers circle. Howser held Missouri to one hit over four innings after retiring the first seven batters she faced. Zerbini came on the relief in the fifth inning and struck out three in two innings to complete the shutout.
Howser was also one of three Elyria East All-Stars, along with Gabby Shackelford and Cassie Miller, to have two hits in the game.
Elyria East had a big, four-run, sixth inning to invoke the mercy rule and end the game an inning early. The first four Elyria East hitters reached base and came around to score. Miller, Kaeli Evans and Faith Hamilton all had RBIs in the inning.
The Elyria team was expecting to play a second game Tuesday against the Indiana team it defeated earlier in the tournament, but the game was stopped in the top of the first inning due to lightning.
After a delay of just under an hour and heavy rains that made the field unplayable, Little League officials decided to postpone the game until today at 10 a.m. According to Len Howser, under Little League rules, the game will be restarted from the beginning and not resumed with two outs in the first inning.
It was the second rainout of the tournament for Elyria East, which also had its game called off Sunday.
“The girls have been looking forward to this tournament for a long, long time so I don’t they’re frustrated,” Howser said. “I think the best way to say it is that they’re eager to get out there and play again. It’s been hard on the families because people take off work to come down and support the girls. It’s nobody’s fault, we’ve just hit some bad weather.”
If Elyria can win its first game today, it will face Illinois at 1 p.m. with the winner advancing to Thursday’s championship game. The two days of rain forced the championship game to be pushed back a day.
“We know it’s do-or-die and we have to come out and play at the highest level but I know the girls will be ready,” Len Howser said.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.