WADSWORTH — In what is likely going to be another crazy Suburban League softball race, Wadsworth learned a few things Thursday.
The Grizzlies found out they can be every bit as good as they were last year, when they finished second in the league. They also discovered so can reigning champion Tallmadge.
Timely hitting and standout pitching were the keys for the Blue Devils as the Grizzlies christened their new field with an unfortunate 4-1 defeat.
“They’re always good,” Wadsworth catcher Sam Ryan said. “I like playing them. This sets us up for the rest of the season.
“It showed we can play with them. It was 4-1. We stuck in the game with them. It was just the one bad inning.”
That came late as Tallmadge (3-0, 3-0) rallied with a four-run fifth.
Wadsworth (2-1, 2-1) struck first in the bottom of the fourth when Lauren Files sent a two-out screamer to right that Brandy Wakefield turned into a one-run error.
But the Grizzlies couldn’t cash in on their good fortune and the Blue Devils chased Grace Zarley (2-1) after 4⅔ innings of four-hit, seven-strikeout ball.
The big fifth inning was highlighted by a bases-loaded single to center by Sierra Bennett. A fielder’s choice and single by Kirsten Lightel plated the other two runs as momentum shifted heavily.
“I can’t say enough about how important that inning was,” Blue Devils coach Ed Seeker said. “They are a good team. One through nine they can hit the ball and Sam Ryan — it was a good thing the wind was blowing because that double in the first might have been out of the park.
“But we have a lot of leadership on this team and one of the things they did was not get down. I’m very proud of how they did.”
One of those leaders was Lightel (3-0), as the Ohio Northern recruit picked up steam and finished strong.
Relying mostly on off-speed pitches, Lightel struggled a bit early by loading the bases in the first, but hunkered down in a complete-game two-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
When her team gave her the lead, Lightel didn’t waste many pitches, sending the final 10 batters down to keep the Blue Devils unscathed this season.
“Lightel gets stronger as the game goes,” Grizzlies coach Michelle DeAngelis said. “Mentally, she doesn’t let anything get to her.”
The question for Wadsworth becomes whether it will bounce back today against Nordonia.
There was enough good that came out of the loss, as Zarley and Kim Crookston combined to strike out 12 and allow just five hits. There also was some bad, as Ryan was the only batter to get a hit off Lightel, while an error in the fifth gave Tallmadge two unearned runs.
“Tallmadge is a very good team,” DeAngelis said. “We got to see a great pitcher. We did fairly well against her.
“We played solid defense for the most part, and we’ll take that going into the game (against Nordonia). This is a learning curve for us. We have young pitchers that can take a lot away from this, and our hitters got to see a great pitcher.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tallmadge 4, Wadsworth 1
TALLMADGE 000 040 0 — 4 5 1
WADSWORTH 000 100 0 — 1 2 1
WP — Kirsten Lightel (3-0) 7 innings, 0 earned runs, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts. LP — Grace Zarley (2-1) 4⅔ innings, 4 runs, 2 earned, 4 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts. Tallmadge (3-0, 3-0) — Sierra Bennett 2 singles, 2 RBIs, run; Lightel 2 singles, RBI. Wadsworth (2-1, 2-1) — Sam Ryan single, double.