WADSWORTH — A questionable call in a scoreless game definitely affected Cloverleaf’s softball team Wednesday — so much so that the Colts pulled off a mild upset.
Shortstop Lauren Strebel took advantage of an outfield error to score the third run and reliever Sierra Pickett got out of a big jam to lead sixth-seeded Cloverleaf past second-seeded Wadsworth 3-2 in a Barberton Division I Sectional final.
The Colts (14-14), who are one victory away from consecutive .500 or better seasons for the first time in 18 years, advance to face fifth-seeded Brunswick at Barberton in a Tuesday district semifinal, while the Grizzlies fell to 17-9.
“As a team, it just feels awesome because I love these girls so much,” Strebel said. “I’m so happy that they get to share my senior year with me. This feels so good.
“I’m happy we’re going further and further (in the tournament). I hope we … No, we will go further.”
Cloverleaf, which split thrillers with Wadsworth in Suburban League play, got the momentum boost it needed in the third inning when No. 9 hitter and starter Kelsen Lewarchick (7-8) hit a Grace Zarley pitch down the right-field line.
The looper went over the head of first baseman Lexie Shirley and chalk flew in the air as the ball landed, but the first-base umpire ruled it foul. Lewarchick then lined out to short for the second out.
“It was such a mixed feeling because I thought it was so fair it was ridiculous,” Strebel said. “But he’s umpiring. It’s his game.
“There’s no quitting on this team,” she added. “I feel like we have the heart to keep going, and we said, ‘Kelsen, we’re going to back you up and we’re going to go with it.”’
Instead of sulking, the Colts got even.
Hallee Smith (2-for-3) and Sam Allen rapped consecutive singles up the middle to bring up Strebel, a four-year starter who entered play hitting .439 with a team-best four home runs.
Strebel wasted no time drilling a ball to right field. Battling a wind gust but in position to make the catch, the outfielder had the ball tick off her glove and roll to the 220-foot fence. Smith and Allen scored easily, but, realizing the relay throw was going to third, Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano waved around Strebel.
The ensuing throw home was late and the Colts went up 3-0.
“I hit it and it looked like (the outfielder) misjudged it, so I just kept going and going and going and going,” Strebel said. “Then I saw Carm and was like, ‘OK, he’s not stopping me yet.’”
The head’s-up play turned out to be big, as the Grizzlies made a strong comeback bid.
“Today our team quote was, ‘One pitch, one play can change the dynamics of the game,”’ Grizzlies coach Michelle DeAngelis said. “I’m not saying that one play is why we lost. We didn’t do some of the other things we needed to do to win a big game.”
Wadsworth answered in the bottom of the third, when Sam Ryan’s RBI single brought in Bailey Conard.
The Grizzlies then chased efficient left-hander Lewarchick, who lived on the outside corner, on a hit by pitch and a bunt single by Niki Weaver in the sixth.
With the next batter, Zarley, already 2-for-2 against Lewarchick, Carmigiano went to right-hander Pickett with two on and no out.
Wadsworth made it 3-2 when Weaver was caught in a rundown and the runner from third came home. Zarley then reached on an error, but Kelsie Wenger lined back to the circle and Pickett fired to first for an inning-ending double play.
“Really, I just focused on one pitch at a time,” Pickett said. “I can’t let anything get into my head, especially when the other team’s screaming.”
Fired up by getting out of the pressure-packed situation, Pickett went 1-2-3 in the seventh to send the Grizzlies packing.
“Beating them again just feels really good,” Pickett said. “It gives us a little more pride for our school.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.