NORTON — Coventry's softball team picked a good time to play its "best game of the year."
That was how the Comets' 10-1 victory over Norton on Friday was described by Wilmer Caraballo, who is in his first year as softball coach after 14 years as baseball coach at the school.
It was surprising, too, as seventh-seeded Coventry (10-8) avenged two regular-season losses to its Portage Trail Conference Metro Division rival — second-seeded Norton (17-6) — in a Canton Division II sectional final.
The Comets will now try to advance one step further than ever before when they face Tallmadge in a district semifinal at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Willlig Park in Canton.
"Our hitters were ready," Caraballo said. "We worked hard all winter. We worked hard to get in this position. And our players, they're believing in us — we're new coaches, this is our first year."
The game actually started Thursday, and was suspended until Friday after just two batters when the rains came.
Sophomore second baseman Miya Gotto, who singled with one out, was still on first when play resumed Friday. And the Comets wasted no time asserting themselves.
Cassidy Karakis singled with two outs and both runners scored when junior Gabbi Sampson tripled into the right-field corner.
"I just wanted to hit the ball, honestly, to help out my team," Sampson said. "I knew this was a big game for us. We really wanted to come out and win."
Gotto's bases-loaded triple to right center keyed a five-run fifth inning as the Comets built a 7-0 lead. They pounded out four consecutive singles before Gotto's big hit.
"I was ready, we were all ready," Gotto said. "Our team worked very hard. We really wanted this game because they beat us two times. Our team played amazing."
Meanwhile, sophomore right-hander Jenna Hinkle (5-4) limited the Panthers to four hits — three in the sixth inning, when Norton scored its lone run. She walked two and, oddly, didn't strike out a batter.
With the Panthers trailing 7-0, Kylie Lewis, Macie Norris amd pinch-hitter Sarah Nauer singled to load the bases in the sixth. Lewis scored on Lexi Cable's sacrifice fly but Hinkle retired the next two batters.
"Typically, I don't get many strikeouts," Hinkle said. "Maybe three or four a game. It was really my defense. My teammates really helped me out in this game."
She said she relied on a changeup and a fastball "on the outside corner."
Coventry collected 15 hits, six in the fourth. Allie Akers, Meadow Odum, Hinkle and Britnee Wilt — the team's lone senior — all singled with one out in the fourth. After Gotto's triple cleared the bases, she scored on Stacey Arnold's groundout.
The Comets added three runs in the seventh. Swanson and Akers both doubled and Wilt had a two-run single.
Norton beat Coventry 12-2 and 10-9 this season, but Norton coach Dick Castilow said he expected a tougher challenge this time.
"They just beat us," Castilow said. "We just didn't hit the ball solid. And [Coventry] made about five defensive plays in the infield that were phenomenal.
"We've had a good season. Going in, we lost eight seniors last year."
Caraballo said facing the same pitcher, Norton left-hander Sandra Brown (12-6), for the third time made a difference.
He said he wanted "a little change" when he switched from coaching baseball to softball.
"I never coached the girls before," he said. "These girls have been fantastic. We worked so hard to this point and I'm very proud of them."