June 29, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Softball: Hornets squander plenty of chances to blow out Colts

WESTFIELD TWP. — The Highland softball team maintained its perfect record Tuesday with a 3-0 Suburban League victory over Cloverleaf, but the Hornets played far from a perfect game.

Highland (3-0, 3-0) scored twice in the first and added an insurance run in the seventh, but never delivered a knockout blow while stranding 10 runners.

Highland's AnnMarie Kirchner drives in a run against Cloverleaf in the first inning. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)

“We’re putting it in play and getting girls on base,” said AnnMarie Kirchner, who improved to 2-0 with 3⅔ innings of scoreless relief. “We’re just not finishing innings.”

When Malory Rymer and Taylor MacWhade started the game with singles and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Kirchner and a single by Kaitlin Krajcik, respectively, it looked like the Hornets were going to blow out the Colts (4-6, 1-3).

“After that, we just kind of quit,” said Kirchner, who gave up three hits and no walks while striking out three. “These past two games we haven’t hit like we did the first two. We’ve really got to pick it up on the offensive side.”

A day earlier, Highland’s SL showdown at Tallmadge was tied 1-1 after 11 innings — Kirchner pitched the whole game — when the contest was suspended due to darkness.

Kelley Cejer

The Hornets, who committed two errors and failed to have a runner tag up from third against Cloverleaf, seemed a little flat Tuesday, but two bunt singles from Rymer and a single and double from Kelley Cejer helped them maintain their perfect record.

“We left a lot of runners on base, but we didn’t get down on ourselves,” Cejer said.

Abbigail Rinard started in the circle for Highland, but left after a line-drive double by Emilee Zimmerman put runners on second and third with one out in the fourth. Kirchner came on and got Tori Meece looking, then retired Allison Fazio on a grounder to third baseman Cejer.

The Colts again put runners on second and third with one out in the sixth on singles by Sam Allen — her second of the game — and Shannon Mohney, but Zimmerman lined to short before Cejer made the defensive play of the game.

Tori Meece hit a ball down the third-base line, with Cejer fielding it on a short hop and completing the throw to first to end the threat.

“I caught it with my thigh,” Cejer said. “I made sure my head stayed down. Once I had it, I knew I had time because it was a bullet. I just set my feet and made a good throw to first.”

Lauren Strebel tried to start a rally with a one-out double in the seventh, but ended up being the last of nine runners stranded by the Colts.

“It seemed like we needed one more hit in key moments,” Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano said. “I was a little less aggressive (on the bases) out of respect for Highland’s fielders, but we battled hard and put ourselves in position to win. We just need to take that next step forward.”

Left-hander Kelsen Lewarchick (2-3) started for the Colts and gave up five hits, two walks and two earned runs in 4⅔ innings, while Sierra Pickett gave up three hits and an earned run in 2⅓ innings of work.

“Our pitchers really battled and gave us a chance to win,” Carmigiano said. “We got out of some tough spots.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.