“Strength in numbers” is the philosophy Walsh Jesuit softball coach Bill Davis has adopted for his team this year.
Eventually, those numbers wore down a game Field team and carried Walsh to a 4-2 victory and the championship of the Akron Division II district Thursday at Firestone Stadium.
The Warriors stranded six base-runners through three innings and found themselves in a 1-1 tie on an unseasonably cool day as gusty winds swirled and spectators shivered at Firestone Stadium.
“It doesn’t faze us at all,” said senior Lexi Noonan, who singled in all three at-bats and scored two runs. “We were stone-faced the entire time. We all know that we can do it. We’ve just got to wait for the right time and someone will come through. We trust each other enough to know that someone will come through.”
Walsh’s clutch hitting came alive with a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth, and sophomore right-hander Taylor Rahach (17-5) pitched a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts as the Warriors advanced to a regional semifinal against the winner of Geneva and Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin at 5 p.m. Thursday at Firestone Stadium.
It is the second district title for Walsh (24-5) in three years, and also the second for this year’s seniors, including Cori Anter, who got a big two-run double in the fifth.
Walsh went ahead 2-1 in the fourth when senior Jackie Ammar’s sacrifice fly scored senior Sophia Simone.
In the fifth, sophomore Riley Ries and Noonan singled to start the inning. Anter then drilled a liner to center that rolled to the fence and provided a 4-1 lead.
“I’d already been walked two times,” Anter said. “So I was thinking to look for the pitch, and the pitch before that I had turned my head off of it. I was just concentrating on keeping my eyes on the ball. Hands inside of the ball, and I did it.”
Anter said the pitch was a change-up.
“It was probably the first one I’ve hit all season,” she said with a laugh. “So that was sweet. That really felt good.”
But Field (23-4) would not go quietly.
Field’s Kerrie Trautman walked and Xzandria McKinley singled to start the sixth. That prompted a visit to Rahach from her coach.
“I just tried to slow her down,” Davis said. “Slow way down and enjoy. I mean that’s our thing. We never say here ‘you have to,’ or ‘you can’t.’ We never say that. It’s just fun.”
Rahach then got a fielder’s choice grounder and a strikeout, though a dropped fly ball enabled McKinley to score and make it 4-2. But Rahach ended the inning with a strikeout and retired the Falcons in order in the seventh.
“It was just time to take some time off,” said Rahach of the mound visit. “Just to breath, just to settle me down. I was real anxious, nervous.”
It was a disappointing finish for Field, which captured the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division with two wins earlier this week as well as the district semifinal 1-0 over Tallmadge on Wednesday.
Morgan Peachey had two singles for Field.
“They battled,” Field coach Beth Dyer said. “We knew we were going up against a good team and we were going to have play good ball. Probably not the best game of our week, but we hung in there. They didn’t give up.
“We’ve had a big week. This is the biggest week of the season for us. They did an excellent job. We couldn’t be more proud of the kids.”
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