NORTH RIDGEVILLE — They say it’s gorgeous in Massillon this time of year, and Black River’s softball team will experience its loveliness firsthand next week after winning the North Ridgeville Division III District.
The Pirates got the offense rolling early and cruised to a 12-1 victory over Columbia on Thursday for the school’s first district championship.
It earned Black River (21-9) a spot in the Massillon Regional, where the Pirates will collide with Canton Central Catholic at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Massillon Community Park. Black River will be the visiting team against CCC, which defeated Loudonville for the Creston District crown. Columbia, which also lost to the Pirates in the regular season, fell to 15-10.
Victory came with an 11-hit attack spearheaded by Kailey Summers’ double and two singles, and the pitching of Dagmar Smith, who hurled a three-hitter, struck out eight and walked none. Columbia’s sixth-inning run was unearned.
“I feel a lot of pride for our school and these girls,” Smith said. “They deserve this so much and I’m just happy to have helped get them here.”
It was particularly gratifying to her because she missed a dozen games in the regular season. She injured her back diving back to first base and is only now nearing 100 percent.
“This game, I didn’t even feel it, there was so much adrenaline pumping through my body,” said Smith, who remembered losing in last year’s district final to Loudonville. “Last year we were nervous. We had never made it that far and didn’t have that kind of experience. This year we knew what we had to do and we did it.”
While not perfect because of an infield error, Smith faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings. She didn’t allow a hit until Raiders catcher Sarah Viccarone drilled an RBI double with two out in the sixth. The hit scored Kaley Marshall, who reached on a leadoff error.
The Pirates put the game out of reach with a four-run first inning sparked by Smith’s single to left field on the second pitch of the game. They strung together three hits, three walks and sent eight batters to the plate. Dagmar Smith, Jessica Chidsey, Summers and Nora Smith scored.
“I said at the end of last year when we played in the district championship, ‘Look out next year, because these kids got a taste of it,’” Pirates coach Merle Simmons said. “I could tell by the look in their eyes that they weren’t done. I told them, ‘Last year we were a good team, this year we’re a great team.’ Who knows what can happen for this team?”
Black River added three runs in the third on an error, Summers’ double and a single by Nora Smith. It became 8-0 in the fifth after catcher Taylor Goff led off with a first-pitch triple to the right-field corner and scored on Summers’ infield hit.
“I’m speechless,” Summers said. “I’m so happy for them (teammates). I’m just happy to be here.”
The Pirates scored four times in the seventh inning on hits by Goff, Summers and Leah Sprague. The rally included Hannah Messenger’s team-leading fourth RBI, a bases-loaded walk with nobody out. Messenger drove in two runs with a first-inning single and another when she grounded out to the left side in the third.
“I feel like each of us are part of the team, and once someone goes, it piles up,” Messenger said. “Most of the game I felt we had no problem doing what we had to do. We were on top of everything today. We played the best we could.”
Contact Bob Daniels at email@example.com.