June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Girls softball: Elyria helps Medina stay in first place

MEDINA — The Medina softball team overcame four infield errors, a four-run deficit, five unearned runs and a 30-minute thunder delay.

And still lost.

Elyria junior Alex Dick hit a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning Monday to give the Pioneers a thrilling 7-5 victory over the first-place Bees in Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division action.

“I had no idea it was going out,” Dick said of the first home run of her three-year varsity career. “It felt good coming off my bat, but the only reason I knew it went over was because everybody started going crazy.”

Medina overcame deficits of 4-0 and 5-3 to force extra innings, but the only lasting good news to come out of the day for the Bees (15-3, 4-1) was that they maintained sole possession of first place in the Valley Division when Brunswick fell 3-2 to Strongsville. Elyria (14-7, 4-2), the only team to win the Valley since the NOC’s inception in 2007-08, is now a game back of Medina and Brunswick.

“We’ve talked a lot about preparing mentally and physically on every pitch,” Bees coach Jessica Toocheck said. “You can’t give Elyria anything or they’ll run with it. That’s what they did today.”

All its fielding woes aside, Medina had a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the seventh, which began with the Bees down 5-4.

Vanessa Scoarste reaching on a dropped pop-up, went to second when Jessie Holzman (single, 2 doubles) grounded to first and came around to score on a single by No. 3 hitter Brittany Becka.

Morgan Rittenhouse and designated player Madi Tata, in action for the first time since tweaking her hamstring in a win over Brunswick on April 18, walked to load the bases with one out.

Sami Holzman then sent a soft, low liner toward short. The ball fell in front of a pulled-in Carly Bacha, who threw to the plate to force out Becka. Catcher Kaitlyn Laseke (single, double, 2 runs) then threw back to third to easily double up Rittenhouse, who had to stay close to second for fear of the soft liner being caught.

“That was a big defensive play for them,” Toocheck said. “It was a tough play. (There was) not much we could do.”

Given new life, the Pioneers wasted no time capitalizing in the eighth, which began with Laseke doubling to deep right-center. After a groundout, Dick homered to left-center when Megan Paradise (12-2) left a pitch up and over the middle of the plate.

At the bottom of its lineup, which went 1-for-10 on the day, Medina went in order in the bottom of the inning.

“They beat us (4-1) the last time, and we were done with that,” Dick said. “We all had a little fire in our bellies.”

Early on, the Bees had holes in their gloves.

Two infield errors to start the second inning led to four unearned runs when Anna Daly, Dick and winning pitcher Elizabeth Ellis (12-5, 2 singles, double) added hits later in the frame. Two more errors in the fifth led to another unearned run for Elyria.

Medina scored twice in the second when Tata and Sami Holzman walked to start the inning and Paradise singled to load the bases. Madison Loftis grounded out to score pinch-runner Amanda Holzman and Caitlyn Rhodes hit a sacrifice fly to plate Sami Holzman, but Paradise was out 8-1-4 on the latter when she got caught between second and third.

Rittenhouse’s blistering double to left scored Jessie Holzman to make it 4-3 in the third, and the Bees made it a one-run game again in the fifth when Jessie Holzman doubled to score Scoarste, who began the inning with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch.

“It’s great to see the heart the girls have to battle back in the game,” Toocheck said. “They want it and they show that, but we’ve got to have that from the first pitch.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.