LAKE TWP.: The North Canton Hoover softball victory tour made a stop Tuesday at Lake.
And in typical Hoover fashion, the Vikings wasted little time to earn a win.
Junior Jenna Lilley hit a first-inning grand slam and junior Tara Thacker tossed a complete-game to lead Hoover to a 14-2 win over Lake in a Federal League game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.
Hoover (23-0, 10-0) is pursuing its third Division I state championship in a row and sixth in program history.
“We take every game just like it is the state championship,” Hoover senior Ally Farrah said. “You have to go out there every inning because every pitch matters. Anything can happen. Things can change with one pitch or one inning. We always stay focused. If you lose focus, you never know what might happen. We always play together.”
Senior MacKenzie DiPietro and Farrah opened the first inning with singles. Freshman Andrea Farrah walked to load the bases to set up Lilley. The grand slam was Lilley’s 13th career home run, which is a school record. The homer was her sixth this season, matching a single-season school record.
“We take every pitch seriously and keep up the intensity,” said Lilley, who also smacked a two-run double. “We play at our level. We never play down to our opponent’s level. We play our game and just keep doing what we are capable of doing. We never let up. We are relentless.”
Hoover scored seven runs in the second and three runs in the third to take a 14-0 lead. Lake (10-8, 4-4) was unable to recover from the deficit.
“I just told the girls that we definitely made improvement from last time,” said Lake coach Julie Boyes, who led the Blue Streaks to the 2005 Division I state title. “Last time she no-hit us and we didn’t score any runs. I definitely think that we made improvements, but there are some things we need to work on such as being consistent on the field, cutting down on the errors and cutting down on the walks.”
Hoover coach Jerry Goodpasture subbed out five of his starters after three innings. The top four batters in the lineup each scored two runs. Thacker, junior Kelly Dillow, junior Kaitlyn Eckelberry, sophomore Kathleen Shier and senior Caly Russo also contributed at bat.
“All of the girls are competitors,” Goodpasture said. “I think that is why they are able to maintain. It doesn’t really make any difference who you play, you still want to come out and have a good performance. They have a lot of pride in how they play. You can see that. They just don’t want to let up. It doesn’t make a difference who they play.”
Thacker (14-0) limited Lake to five hits. She hit three singles and scored twice.
“A lot of my inside and up pitches were working pretty well,” Thacker said. “I usually try to switch sides.”
Junior Kari Snyder hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to account for Lake’s runs. Senior Katelyn King also scored on the play. The Blue Streaks’ other three hits came from sophomore Macy Cook, Morgan Leonti and junior Carly Stauffer.
Hoover refocused after the homer to close out the win.
“We go out there and stay focused and we have confidence in ourselves,” DiPietro said. “We know that each of our players can do the jobs that they need to do, and we all just really hit the ball. We have a good hitting team, a really good pitching staff and good defense.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.