June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Lauren Peak sparking Bees’ offense from bottom of the order

Lauren Peak couldn’t have picked a a more perfect time to, well, Peak. The center fielder spent most of the season marred in a hitting slump, although she hid her frustrations behind a happy-go-lucky attitude that has made her an invaluable teammate as Medina heads into Friday’s Division I state semifinal game with North Canton Hoover.

Even so, the results weren’t there.

Medina center fielder Lauren Peak lines up a pitch during the University of Akron Division I Regional championship. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JUDD SMERGLIA)

Peak hit just .143 in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division play, and would have been below the dreaded Mendoza line heading into the tournament if not for a 4-for-7 doubleheader against Cuyahoga Falls.

Finally, the three-year starter who learned how to slap hit from future coach Jessica Toochek in eighth grade had enough. Peak was going keep hacking, hacking and hacking — and she does plenty of that with just one walk in 78 plate appearances — until things changed.

And, boy, did they change.

“It was difficult because I hate not hitting the ball,” the always smiling Peak said. “I was struggling, but now I’m back in my groove.”

Aurora and Brecksville found out the hard way at the University of Akron Division I Regional.

All four pitchers Medina faced attacked the strike zone fully confident the speedy No. 9 hitter wasn’t going to do any damage. After all, they didn’t want to face leadoff power hitter Vanessa Scoarste if they didn’t have to.

But Peak had a silent edge from fine-tuning her swing at home after practices — “it makes me more confident when I get up to bat,” she said — and went 2-for-3 with a run in each game as Medina advanced to state for the first time in school history.

The hits were extremely meaningful, too, as Peak was instrumental in big innings. Her opposite-field single kick-started the five-run third against Aurora, while a two-out rocket up the middle was instrumental during a four-run fifth vs. Brecksville.

Contributions like that from the bottom of the order are hard to ignore.

“Once I start, someone else hits,” Peak said. “It’s like a domino effect.”

Maybe more important, Peak’s outgoing personality has kept Medina positive throughout all the intense moments of their thrilling postseason run.

That was no more evident than when Peak, along with Nikki Casper and Jessica Lawrence, snuck from behind and dumped ice water over Toocheck during an interview following the nine-inning win over Brecksville.

“She’s a very upbeat person,” right fielder Jen Sansonette said. “No matter what the situation is, she’s always there for everybody on the team.

“She kept us up as a team because we tend to get down when things aren’t going our way. To have a girl like that, it’s always good for us. It helped us win.”

Playing at a high level doesn’t hurt, either. The Bees head into Friday afternoon’s Final Four showdown vs. powerful North Canton Hoover with a boatload of confidence and an unbreakable bond that has been strengthened by Peak’s performance.

“I love the intensity and just being on a team,” Peak said. “We got along really well and everyone knows how to come together. We’re all really fun girls, and I like everyone on our team.”
But what about the run to Firestone Stadium?

“It’s been very intense,” Peak said, “and I love it.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.