AKRON — The new shoes now have some scuff marks on them, but they’re none the worse for wear. By Saturday afternoon, they’ll be broken in, fully polished again and ready to shine.
That’s the way the Medina softball team looked at its uncharacteristically sloppy 5-3 victory over Austintown Fitch on Thursday in University of Akron Division I Regional semifinal action at Lee Jackson Field.
With some new faces in key places, the defending regional champion Bees (23-7) committed a whopping six errors, yet never trailed the Falcons (20-9) while earning a regional title meeting with Mentor on Saturday at 3 p.m.
“It was a little bit of an off day,” senior catcher Maria Vanadia said. “We were excited to be in this spot again, but we had some new shoes out there. It was obvious some of us were nervous. It was kind of a wake-up call for everyone, but we held it together.”
While the Bees were shaky defensively — sophomore second baseman Madison Loftis committed three errors, junior right fielder Sami Holzman had two on one play and experienced senior center fielder Lauren Peak added another — they spoke loudly with their sticks.
Medina banged out 10 hits against freshman Alex Franken (20-9), with junior first baseman Madi Tata going 4-for-4 with a triple, three runs batted in and two runs scored. Jessie Holzman singled twice and scored both times and Vanadia doubled in a run.
“We definitely weren’t strong defensively,” Bees coach Jessica Toocheck said. “We’re fortunate our bats picked up the slack and we were able to come through offensively.”
Junior pitcher Megan Paradise (20-5) once again did her part as well, going the distance and giving up one earned run on six hits and no walks while striking out four.
“When errors happen, they happen,” Paradise said. “I make errors. We all make errors. But we have each others’ backs. It’s part of the game. We just know we have to bounce back.”
Paradise actually hasn’t made an error all season, but her point is well taken. Despite its fielding woes, Medina controlled this game from the first pitch, with its fielding follies ultimately serving only to make the final few innings more interesting than they needed to be.
The Bees were up 2-0 after the first three batters of the game, as Vanessa Scoarste ripped a single and Jessie Holzman followed with another. Tata drove them both home with an opposite-field hit, then came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Jen Sansonette to put Medina up 3-0.
The Bees added another run in the second when Jessie Holzman singled and raced home on Tata’s towering triple to left.
“It’s always helpful when you get hits right away,” Paradise said. “It helps us get our confidence up and it boosts our energy.”
Fitch got its only earned run in the bottom of the second when Gabby Butcher singled, went to third on a double by Mercedes Pratt and scored on the first of Nicholette Zordich’s three hits.
With runners on first and third and one out, the Falcons had a chance to get closer, but Paradise got Chelsea Raymer looking and Katee Sweeney swinging to end the threat.
Fitch made it 4-2 in the fifth when Cali Mikovich, who hit almost .600 for the season, tripled and came around to score when Peak’s throw from center field got out of the infield.
Things really got interesting in the sixth, when Loftis got tagged with a tough error after an off-line throw to first — Tata often makes the catch in such a situation — and Sami Holzman committed fielding and throwing errors on Zordich’s single to right.
The fielding error allowed Zordich to get to second with the potential tying run and the throwing error permitted Butcher to score, but Paradise got out of the jam when Raymer hit a weak grounder to Tata.
Medina got an insurance run in the seventh when Tata bunted for a hit and scored on Vanadia’s double, but the Falcons were in business again when the Bees committed another error in the bottom half of the inning.
Alana Callahan and Alex Corradi, a pair of .400 hitters, came to the plate representing the tying run, but each grounded to shortstop Scoarste and Medina survived.
“Toward the end of the game, I got kind of nervous,” Vanadia said. “We had to call timeout and tell the girls it was still our game.”
It was, as the Bees refused to let the other shoe drop.
“Once we realized we had to clean it up, we all pulled together,” Tata said. “I’m really proud of our team.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.