MEDINA — A softball team that loves the comeback didn’t need it Monday.
Second-seeded Medina rolled to a 7-2 win over seventh-seeded Highland in a Barberton Division I Sectional final that started with a strong statement by the Bees.
Medina (20-4), which has come back twice this season from 6-0 deficits, came out on fire and sent a message to the Hornets (17-11) that it was ready to defend its district title.
Because of it, the Bees are one win away from their third straight district final — with a chance to reach the regional level for the third year in a row as well. They will be the home team Wednesday when they play at third-seeded Barberton (16-5).
Against Highland, it was about jumping out early, as Medina knocked Leegan Vorndran (13-5) around for eight hits and five runs right out of the chute.
“That first inning was huge for us,” Bees shortstop Vanessa Scoarste said. “If you start strong, it just sets the tone for the rest of the game. When we’re up, we do amazing. That was the starting point of the game and our mood stayed the same the rest of the way.”
A two-run double by Morgan Rittenhouse and two-run single by Caiti Rhodes — Sami Holzman accounted for the other RBI — highlighted the inning of doom for the Hornets.
While Highland was able to scratch two earned runs across against Megan Paradise (16-2) and collect 10 hits off the right-hander, it was playing catch-up against a calm, cool and collected team.
“They were hitting everything,” Hornets catcher Kelley Cejer said. “Leegan was hitting her spots and we were switching up everything, but they still hit everything. It was just a rough inning that set the tone of the game.”
Medina scored two more runs in the third on hits from Madison Loftis and Jessie Holzman (3-for-4). That allowed Lees-McRae recruit Paradise to put it on autopilot the rest of the way.
“We always tell Megan or any pitcher, it’s always a 0-0 game,” Bees coach Jessica Toocheck said. “But when any pitcher has a lead, it takes a little stress off of them. She can trust her pitches a little more and let her team play good defense.”
The Bees will make a return trip to the Barberton Sports Complex to face the Magics. Medina played Barberton in the same round last season and won 5-2. There’s little doubt the Magics will be seeking revenge, as they return all but one player from last year’s squad.
“We have to keep hitting the ball, push through and keep going in the next game,” Jessie Holzman said. “We need to start early and get ahead so there’s less pressure.”
Highland, which won 12 of its last 15 games, has plenty to build on. Cejer, Abby Rinnard and Amanda Schniegenberg graduate, but everyone else returns.
“After this, they know we can hang with the best of them,” Cejer said. “If we take away that one inning, we’re right with them. They see now that they can get through things. We’ll just be more experienced when we play teams like this next year.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.