By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
It’s easy for a softball coach to tell a pitcher to hit her spots, let the hitter put the ball in play and trust that the defense will record the out.
It’s much more difficult for that pitcher to execute that request. Edgewood hurler Gabriella Patete, however, managed to do an admirable job of it in beating Perry, 2-1, Thursday at Edgewood.
“Just put it play and we’ll catch it behind you,” Edgewood coach Steve Cunha said. “Gabby’s not a strikeout pitcher per se, but if they put it in play, she knows we’re going to catch it.”
“I was throwing it on the corners and giving them nothing over the plate,” Patete said. “They’re good hitters. It was really important to hit my spots.”
Of the 21 outs the Warriors (3-4) recorded, 18 were on groundballs induced by Patete (3-0). The other three were strikeouts.
“It’s everything to have a good defense,” Patete said. “They did an amazing job today. You can’t win without defense.”
“It was a nice game,” Perry coach Frank Rico said. “It really was. They made the plays they had to make and got the hits when they needed them. They hit the ball and made plays. Tip your hat to them.”
Patete scattered five hits in allowing just the one run and the Warriors made just one error.
“We’ve been waiting all year for that,” Cunha said. “That’s how we’re capable of playing. If we catch the ball, we can play with just about anybody.
“That started yesterday against Mooney. We played a clean game. It was our first without an error. For whatever reason, it’s taken us some time to used to playing out on the field.” Part of the secret of Patete’s success was in using the umpire’s strike zone to her advantage.
“There’s no point in throwing pitches on the plate,” Patete said. “You work with what the umpire gives you.”
“Give their pitcher credit,” Rico said. “She found out the umpire’s strike zone and used it. You’ve got to tip your hat to her for that.”
Patete also played a role in both runs scored by the Warriors.
With two outs in the home half of the fifth, Gia Saturday singled to left-center, Courtney DiDonato singled up the middle putting runners at the corners, and Patete singled to left-center to plate Saturday with the go-ahead run.
“(Saturday) is really starting to swing the bat well,” Cunha said. “Those were good at-bats. We hit two balls hard between left-center and right-center and we got (another) one that found a hole between shortstop and third base.”
“(Cunha) is an excellent coach,” Rico said. “He puts his mashers in the right spots in the order. Everyone on the team knows her role. He’s got people placed very well in the order.”
In the second, Patete blasted a shot over the Perry center fielder’s head for a leadoff double.
“I was just trying to see a pitch I liked and hit it,” Patete said. “It felt good. I’ve been in a slump the last game or two. Hitting the ball was nice.”
Mo Lynch sacrificed courtesy runner Kate Crooks to third and, with two outs, Taylor Diemer tripled to the gap in left-center to put Edgewood on top, 1-0.
Emily Westfall (2-2) took the loss. She allowed two earned runs on eight hits, struck out two and issued three free passes.
“Their pitcher did a nice job,” Cunha said. “She moved the ball in and out and changed speeds.
“If you look at the score and see 2-1, you’d probably say that we struggled, but they made some real nice plays. Sometimes you hit the ball hard and have a lot to show for it. That’s a good team.”
Perry (5-4, 2-1 in Chagrin Valley Conference) knotted the score in the fourth after Patete issued a one-out walk — the only one she allowed — to Maddie Clark. Susie Metler’s two-out single to left scored Clark from second.
The Pirates threatened to tie the game in the top of the sixth, but a defensive gem saved the day.
Clark had led off with a single and Morgan Jury followed with another to put runners at first and second with nobody out.
Patete then induced a groundball to third baseman Ashten Noce, who stepped on the bag and fired across the diamond to complete the double play. Another groundball to the left side ended the inning.
“That was huge,” Cunha said. “They had girls at first and second with nobody out. If that ball gets through, in the worst-case scenario for them, bases are loaded with nobody out.
“All of a sudden, there are two outs and a runner at second with one swing of the bat. That’s a play, if it’s last week, we don’t make.”
Diemer, Patete and Saturday each had two hits for the Warriors.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.