Walsh Jesuit sophomore Taylor Rahach looked across the softball diamond Wednesday at Firestone Stadium and saw familiar faces.
Rahach, a Mantua resident, knew everyone on the Crestwood team and played with or against a majority of the players in recreational youth leagues.
“I was nervous, but I was excited at the same time to play them,” Rahach said. “I knew it would be a good game.”
Rahach brought her “A” game and struck out a season-high 16 batters to lead the Warriors to a 2-0 win in an Akron Division II district semifinal.
Field defeated Tallmadge 1-0 in the other semifinal with an unearned run in the sixth inning. Walsh (23-5) and Field (23-4) will meet in the district final at 6 p.m. today at Firestone Stadium.
Senior Leandra Griffin reached via an error and scored Field’s run following an infield single by senior Xzandria McKinley with two outs.
“It is a great feeling to be able to deliver the hit, especially since our team hasn’t made it this far in the past much,” McKinley said. “I am very excited.”
Field senior right-hander Kerrie Trautman and Tallmadge junior right-hander Kirsten Lightel engaged in a pitcher’s duel in the nightcap.
Senior Lexi Noonan provided all the offense Walsh needed with a single in the first inning that scored sophomore Lilli Piper and senior Jackie Ammar.
“It was an inside pitch,” Noonan said. “She was pitching us inside the whole game. You just have to wait on the ball an extra second. I was up in the box a little farther than the other at-bats and that helped.”
Rahach, a 5-foot-5 right-hander who is 16, retired the first eight batters she faced by strikeout. She only allowed walks to senior Heather Pahorsky and sophomore Holly Hoffman, and a single to junior Reanna Szarka.
“My rise ball was just rising up and they were swinging underneath it,” said Rahach, who also mixed in some curveballs. Walsh scorekeeper Bill Leslie said Rahach has 205 strikeouts in 125 innings.
“She won the game for us,” Walsh coach Bill Davis said. “That is her hometown. That is where she would have gone to high school had she not gone to Walsh. We are glad we have her. We made a couple of adjustments on her pitching two weeks ago. It seemed to really help her and she has bought in to it. We went out and played [Olentangy] Liberty, [North Canton] Hoover and Elyria. She has been doing real well.”
Walsh beat Liberty and Elyria, and lost to Hoover.
“I think our strength of schedule will help us,” Davis said. “I don’t think anybody sees the schedule we see.”
Trautman struck out six and allowed two hits for Field.
“Ever since I was little I learned to keep my composure no matter what the situation,” Trautman said. “Even with runners on base, I just do my thing and throw it where coach calls for it. That is what gets me through most games.”
Trautman said her screwball and curveball were “both working” Wednesday.
Lightel struck out 11, allowed three hits and also hit a single. Sophomore Joanna Catalano had Tallmadge’s other hit.
Field’s two other hits were by Justine Barnes (tripled) and Trautman (single).
“We have had a big week,” Field coach Beth Dyer said. “We wanted to play. Both pitchers did their thing. It was a pitcher-dominated game. We knew coming in that both pitchers were good. It was just about executing and who was going to make the most out of opportunities.”
Field won the outright Portage Trail Conference Metro Division championship this week with wins over Springfield and Coventry.
“This has been an awesome season,” Trautman said. “We have been the underdogs all year. No one expected us to be this good. Coming out and proving people wrong our senior year just makes us all real proud to be a Falcon.”
Walsh and Archbishop Hoban shared the North Coast League Blue Division title.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.