By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
History is not only a great teacher, but it can also serve as a great motivator. Last year, the Geneva softball team failed to win a game in the Division II postseason tournament.
Wednesday, it defeated the Jefferson Falcons 5-2 at the JAGS Complex to advance to the district championship game today against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.
“The girls were really disappointed about last season,” Geneva coach Eleisha Pitcher said. “The difference this season has been they’ve been focused much better. It’s exciting, nerve-wrecking but exciting,”
Amy Pitcher, who won her 16th game on the mound for Geneva echoed her mother’s comments.
“Everybody wants to be here right now,” she said. “Everyone really wants to play this thing out and everyone wants to win.”
Win, is what the Eagles did for the 20th time this season against two defeats. It also marked their second win against Jefferson (21-6), champions of the All-American conference. The Eagles defeated Jefferson by a score of 3-2 earlier this year.
“They’re the best team in Ashtabula County,” Jefferson coach Don McCormack said about the PAC champs. “They beat us twice this year, straight up on our field. We have no excuses; they played better than we did. We have every bit of respect for them. They’ve earned it, they deserve to be moving on and I wish them the best of luck tomorrow. I know they will represent Ashtabula County well.”
It was a three-run rally for Geneva in the sixth inning that proved to be the deciding factor.
With one out, senior Becky Depp battled Jefferson starter Alyssa Irons in a 10-pitch at-bat before driving a 3-2 pitch to the gap in right center for a triple. It was one of three hits that Depp collected during the game.
“The Jefferson coach told me I was going to have a great game today,” Depp said. “I was feeling really confident at the plate. When I got the triple, I knew we had Alyssa and Jamie coming up, so I knew we’d get that run.”
Irons struck out the next hitter for the second out. Then Alyssa Donato dribbled a roller up the first-base line. Uncertain if the ball would roll foul, Irons picked it up and threw to first, but not in time, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Things got worse for Jefferson. Geneva’s next hitter grounded to third, but the throw to first went off the first baseman’s glove and down the right field line for what amounted to a three-base error and allowed another run to score.
Kim Brumagin followed with an RBI single to plate a fifth run.
“The middle of the line-up really hit well for us today,” Eleshia Pitcher said. “We never know for sure which group of girls is going to hit, I guess so long as one of them does, we’ll be OK.”
The three-run inning stemmed the momentum from Jefferson who came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game and seemed poised to get the win.
Amy Pitcher allowed a single but nothing more in retiring the Falcons in the seventh to end the game.
The senior southpaw got the win on the mound, holding Jefferson to two earned runs on seven hits. She walked one and struck out four. All this while her defense made all the plays behind her.
“I knew we couldn’t keep their bats quiet all game,” Eleshia Pitcher said. “Usually, when you face a team for the second time, they hit you better. I told our defense to stay on their toes. The main thing I was concerned about was keeping the ball on the right side of the fence which we did.”
Geneva got on the scoreboard in the first inning. Amy Pitcher bunted her way aboard. She was forced out at second on a ground ball by Sarah Depp. But, Depp stole second and third before her sister Becky rapped a single to bring her home.
The Eagles touched up Irons for three-straight hits in the fourth inning. Sydney McCaleb hit a bloop single to left to start the inning. Becky Depp followed with a line shot to left. Then Verno took a pitch back up the middle for an RBI single.
Jefferson got on the board with a two-out rally in the fifth inning when Emily Smock and Bailey Beckwith hit back to back doubles.
The Falcons tied the game in the sixth inning. Irons singled to start the inning. Pitcher retired the next two batters, but Barile smashed the first pitch she saw the opposite way for an RBI double to tie the game.
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.