AKRON — There is a quiet confidence around the Medina softball team.
OK, OK, so nothing is truly quiet when it comes to this rambunctious, outgoing, cheerful group.
But when the Bees (22-7) take on Austintown Fitch (20-8) today at 5 p.m. in a University of Akron Division I Regional semifinal at Lee Jackson Field, they will know full well that they belong, having won the event and qualified for the state tournament for the first time in school history a year ago.
“We’re taking it seriously,” junior shortstop and Kent State recruit Vanessa Scoarste said. “We’re working our hardest and always giving 100 percent like we did the rest of the year.
“We play every game like it’s our last. But this one, we’re not going to make it our last.”
The Bees average 6.8 runs and own a team batting average of .363, but they know defense and pitching are usually the keys at this stage of the tournament.
Medina has been great in the field (.951) for most of the season, while junior Megan Paradise (19-5, 1.90 ERA) has not given up more than two runs in three postseason games.
“It’s just another game we’re going to come out hard in and hope to win,” the right-hander said. “We’re just going to do our best.
“We’re ready to play. We can face any team as long as we’re on our game.”
Fitch, which competes in the All-American Conference, will be making its first regional appearance since 2005.
The Falcons have a team batting average of .322 — junior second baseman Cali Mikovich, senior center fielder Alana Callahan and junior shortstop Alessandra Corradi all hit between .400 and .600 — and score 6.4 runs a game.
“I believe there is something very special about this team,” said ninth-year coach Melody Ward, like Medina coach Jessica Toocheck a former player at Kent State. “I would call them a team of destiny.
“We may not be the biggest team or the most talented team out there, but we are a group of hard-working girls who will fight for one another.”
The Falcons have scored 10 or more runs 10 times this season, but they’ve shown they can scratch and claw their way to victory in the postseason, opening with a 4-2 win over Kent Roosevelt before downing Stow 8-6 in the Boardman District semifinals.
In a 5-2 district final win over Aurora, Mikovich had two home runs and four RBIs — she had one previous over-the-fence homer in her life — and Gabby Butcher added a solo shot as the Falcons made the most of four hits.
Freshman Alex Franken (20-8), who has gotten the decision in every Fitch game this season, pitched that game and will start again today.
“Her goal as a middle school student was to be the one in the circle,” said Ward, who owns a 115-121 career record. “She wants the ball and she will work so hard for you.”
Like Medina’s Paradise, who did not strike out or walk a batter in an 8-2 district final win over Brunswick, Franken relies on her teammates.
“Our defense is very good,” Ward said. “The girls work hard because our pitcher is not a strikeout pitcher. They show up to play behind her.
“This is a game they are intent on winning. The funny thing about our team is they’re laid back and they joke around, but when I want to get on them, they’ve got this great chemistry and they know when to turn it on and off. I believe that come game time (today), they’re going to turn it on.”
Back at regionals for the second straight year, Medina is equally confident, which could make for a great game.
“We love this,” Bees catcher Maria Vanadia said. “We work so hard in the offseason and throughout the year, we believe we should be here. We’re just enjoying it one step at a time.”
Having taken the next step a year ago, when they beat Aurora in the semifinals and Brecksville in the regional final, the Bees take comfort — but not complete satisfaction — in knowing they’ve been here before.
“It gives us confidence,” Scoarste said. “We wanted to be back here. At the same time, it gives us a target. Everyone wants to get us. We just have to play our game.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.