June 29, 2016

Mostly clear

Softball: Black River’s Dagmar Smith has day to remember

SULLIVAN TWP. — Monday wasn’t a perfect day, but it was a day Black River softball pitcher Dagmar Smith will never forget.

The four-year starter broke the Medina County record for career strikeouts by fanning eight in a 3-1 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division loss to Wellington.

Dagmar Smith

The 5-foot-8, 116-pound Smith, already a three-time All-Gazette pick, now has 757 strikeouts, three more than 2006 Brunswick graduate Amanda Macenko.

“That was a big milestone, that’s for sure,” said the 17-year-old, who broke into tears on several occasions upon receiving postgame congratulations. “It definitely feels good. I’ve been working for four years for this.”

Smith (8-8), who has a scholarship to continue her career at Division II Ursuline College, would have loved to have led the Pirates (10-9, 6-5) to victory on her record-setting day, but there were still plenty of smiles after she gave up a three-run home run in the top of the first to Wellington (7-14, 5-7) catcher Regan Moitoret.

“Regan is an amazing hitter,” Smith said. “I’ve known her since we were little kids. I threw the wrong pitch in the wrong place. It was a curveball that didn’t curve.”

Batting third after Sami Cucuzza led off the game with a walk and Maddie Novotny reached on an error on her sacrifice bunt, Moitoret blasted her friend’s non-curving curveball over the 210-foot marker in center field.

Moitoret, a senior who now has five home runs, was among the many people who congratulated Smith after the game, approaching her behind the Black River dugout with a huge smile while saying, “Do you still love me?”

The two then hugged and posed for a number of pictures, but arguably the most emotional hug of the day took place moments earlier.

Former Black River coach Merle Simmons, whose supplemental contract was not renewed after he led the Pirates to the North Ridgeville Division III District final in Smith’s sophomore year and the Massillon Regional final last year, showed up after the game and presented his former star pitcher with flowers.

“It’s awesome to have him here,” Smith said. “He’s still one of my favorite coaches of all-time. It was very special to have him here.”

Smith also received a huge hug from former catcher Taylor Goff, had a Gatorade bucket of ice dumped on her in the Pirates’ postgame huddle and was given a congratulatory card signed by current coaches and teammates.

The right-hander broke Macenko’s record with her sixth strikeout, fanning No. 7 hitter Morgan Tandarich on a 1-2 changeup just off the plate to start the seventh.

The game was stopped briefly at that point, with the ball being taken out of play so Smith could keep it. Black River athletic director Bruce Lorincz and first-year coach Lauren Toth publicly congratulated Smith, whose teammates surrounded her in the circle during the ceremony, which also featured several loud cheers from Wellington players, including Moitoret.

“A lot of those (strikeouts) are ours,” Dukes coach Tim Wulfhoop said. “She’s one of the best. She commands all her pitches and never gives you anything.”

Though Black River is in Ashland County’s Sullivan Township, where Smith lives, The Gazette has always included athletes from the school in its Medina County records.

Lorincz said the school draws approximately 45 percent of its students from Medina County, 45 percent from Ashland County and 10 percent from Lorain County. Lorincz also said local legend has it that the Ashland-Medina county line runs through the east end zone of the football field, which a Google map showed could be true.

For her part, the soft-spoken Smith wasn’t concerned about county lines, where he fellow students lived or even career records, though she was thrilled to set one.

“I tried to put it out of my mind before the game, but that wasn’t easy,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to break it, so now we can get on with the rest of our season and try to finish strong.”

After giving up four hits over the first 2⅓ innings, Smith mixed her fastball, curveball, rise, drop and change to retire the last 14 batters she faced. She recorded seven of her strikeouts in that span, including five of the last six batters she faced.

“I’m so proud of her,” Toth said. “I couldn’t think of a person who deserves this record more. She worked extremely hard and she’s a great pitcher and a great person.

“She made one mistake to their best hitter. That’s going to happen to pitchers sometimes. Every once in a while, you’re going to hang one and it’s going to get hit. But she came back hard.”

Smith, who has 180 strikeouts this season, had 188 as a freshman, 245 as a sophomore and 144 as a junior, when she missed 12 games with a lower back injury but came back to lead the Pirates to the regional final for the first time in school history.

She had just one strikeout through three innings and only three through five against Wellington, but tied Macenko’s mark by fanning cleanup hitter Erin Reisenger and No. 5 batter Alli Rangel to start the sixth. Smith then wasted no time breaking the record in the seventh before adding two more K’s for good measure.

“It would have definitely been nice if we could have won, but it was still a good game,” she said. “I’m proud of my teammates.”

Black River’s starting lineup against the Dukes included three freshmen and a sophomore — plus a left-handed throwing shortstop — and its youth and inexperience were on display on several occasions.

The Pirates had runners on first and second and no outs in the sixth when Megan Scott was correctly called out on an infield fly rule, but the runner on second was doubled up after wandering off the bag on the routine popup.

Black River also had a batter attempt to lay down a sacrifice bunt because she thought she had been given that sign on a 3-0 count, then later failed to force out a Wellington runner at second because no one was covering the bag.

“We’re making progress,” Toth said, “but sometimes our youth shines through.”

So, too, does Smith’s greatness, though on this day Wellington’s Rangel (6-14) was just as good, giving up four hits, a walk and one earned run while fanning six.

When Rangel needed some good fortune, she got that, too. With the Pirates still having a runner on after hitting into the double play via the infield fly rule, Danielle Sexton’s grounder down the third-base line bounced off Novotny and right to shortstop Reisenger, who ended the inning with a 5-6-3 putout.

“We knew it was going to be like this coming into the year,” Smith said of her team’s struggles. “It’s a rebuilding year. I’m just trying to leave something behind for them to build on.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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.