Walsh Jesuit junior ace Taylor Rahach kept Nordonia’s bats at bay until the final inning and led the Warriors to a 5-1 win Wednesday over the Knights in a Division I regional semifinal at the University of Akron’s Lee R. Jackson Field.
Rahach was nearly untouchable for most of the day, striking out 16 and allowing only three hits. At one point, she struck out seven consecutive Knights.
Rahach said her rise ball was working and with the Knights playing catch-up, she went to that pitch often.
“I could throw it high and low,” she said. “So I threw it a lot. It’ll come in as a strike [low] or it’ll go out as a strike [high] and they’ll swing. If they don’t, then I can go to other pitches, like my curveball.”
Rahach added three strikeouts in the seventh inning, but they were sandwiched around three walks, a hit and the Knights’ one and only true scoring threat in the game.
After leading 4-0 for most of the game and 5-0 heading into the final inning, Rahach walked the bases loaded with two out. Nordonia (20-9) senior Marissa Rizzo singled home a run to make it 5-1.
That hit brought the tying run to the plate and a chance at a wild comeback, but Rahach notched her 16th strikeout to end the game.
“I’m not sure what changed, maybe mentally I wasn’t there [in the seventh],” Rahach said.
“But I knew we just needed three outs.”
Walsh’s offense did its damage in the third inning. Three consecutive singles to open the inning loaded the bases. Laney Jones brought the first run home with a single to left field. Two more runs scored on a Nordonia throwing error to make it 3-0. And Rahach then helped her own cause with an RBI single to make it 4-0.
The Warriors (27-3) tacked on another run in the fifth inning after again loading the bases. Sophomore McKenzi Gerry was hit with a pitch to score a run.
Still, Walsh coach Bill Davis wasn’t pleased with his offense and felt the Warriors could have scored more often.
“We have got to play better on Saturday,” Davis said, speaking of the regional final, set for noon.
“We didn’t take advantage of some things. And that wasn’t [Rahach’s] best. No disrespect to [Nordonia]. But we have to be better.”
Walsh will face the winner between North Canton Hoover and Mentor, though the Vikings will be heavy favorites.
That would bring some unusual circumstances for Davis, as he said Hoover (25-3) coach Jerry Goodpasture has been his mentor as a softball coach.
“Jerry gets it. I call him to set up my schedule, what tournament I should get in, who I should play,” Davis said. “He helps me out a ton.”
Hoover and Walsh met twice this season.
The Vikings came away with one-run victories both times.
Said Davis: “They’ll be better. ... But I like our chances.”
Rahach added, “Third time’s the charm.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.