NORTON — A pair of high-fives from coach Jessica Toocheck sufficed for a postgame celebration.
The Medina softball team has been here before.
A high-octane second inning, sterling defense and efficient pitching were all the top-seeded Bees needed Tuesday in an impressive 5-2 win over fourth-seeded Barberton in the Barberton Division I District semifinals.
Defending state semifinalist Medina (21-7), the “home” team on Barberton’s home field, which is actually located in Norton, advances to play Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division rival Brunswick (16-11) for the district title today at 4:30 p.m.
“I thought we fought hard and they’re a great team,” junior first baseman Madi Tata said. “They went up 2-0 against us in the second inning and we were a little worried, but they’re a great hitting team and we’re a great hitting team, and we really battled back hard.”
Trailing after a two-run single by the Magics’ Chloe Cuckler, the bottom half of the Medina lineup wasted no time grabbing momentum for good.
No. 5 hitter Jen Sansonette led off the second inning against hard-throwing right-hander Macey Kaisk (13-4) with a single to right. Lauren Peak was safe on a sacrifice bunt when Barberton unsuccessfully tried to make the play at second, and Madison Loftis reached on an error to load the bases.
The epitome of Medina’s ultra-patient approach, Abby Knechtel, then got behind 0-2 before grinding her way to a run-scoring walk.
The inning was far from losing steam, as No. 9 hitter Sami Holzman ripped a single up the middle to tie the game, Kent State recruit Vanessa Scoarste made it 3-2 Medina on a sacrifice fly and Tata pushed an opposite-field single to left-center for two more runs.
When the dust settled, the Bees led 5-2 and Kaisk had thrown 52 pitches after two innings.
‘“Tooch’ usually tells us that we always come from behind, which if we had to do that every time, fine,” Holzman said. “It feels really good because we’ve worked really hard. There’s not much else to say.”
“Obviously, our dugout stays loud the entire game,” Tata said. “It was truly a team effort. Everyone in the dugout kept everyone up at the plate.”
The rest of the 85-degree day belonged to a stout defense and pitcher Megan Paradise (18-5, 1.86 ERA).
With Barberton (19-6) timing up Paradise with ease in the first two innings, the infield was on its toes. Two runners were erased on fielder’s choices, and third baseman Sansonette ended the first inning with a diving catch down the line with runners on first and second.
The outfield did the trick over the final five innings, as Jessie Holzman (left), Lauren Peak (center) and Sami Holzman (right) combined for six putouts, highlighted by Peak snaring screamers in the second and sixth innings and a hard-hit ball near the warning track in the sixth.
“If you have really good offense and don’t have really good defense, you’re not going to win the game,” Sami Holzman said.
After allowing five hits over the first two innings, Paradise settled in by consistently throwing changeups for strikes. Kelsey Wilson led off the third with a double, but Paradise stranded her and allowed just one more hit — an Ashlee Ford single in the seventh — the rest of the game.
Adding to the clutch performance, two of Paradise’s four strikeouts came with runners in scoring position.
“She’s a hard worker,” Sami Holzman said. “She’s good at what she does, and she fakes it until she makes it.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.