The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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April 22, 2014

Warriors whack Struthers

Cunha’s crew remains strong in first season in AAC with third win in four conference games

ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP — Edgewood softball coach Steve Cunha’s main focus for the season centers on his team playing well in the All-American conference. In their inaugural season as part of the AAC, the Warriors continued their strong start by defeating visiting Struthers, 8-2, on Monday afternoon.

Starting pitcher Gabby McNeil took charge of the task at hand as she dominated the Wildcats (0-9, 0-5 AAC), allowing just two runs on three hits for her third victory of the season. After giving up a leadoff single to start the ballgame, the freshman retired the next 12 batters. She finished with 8 strikeouts, walking 3. The victory is the third in the last 4 games for Edgewood, improving its conference record to 3-1, 4-3 overall.

“This was a good league win for us today,” Cunha said. “It keeps us right in it, we’re only a game out of first place.  We have Lakeview one more time and we have Jefferson twice the first week of May.”

“Gabby is learning on the fly, here. She’s had her struggles but she works hard and has gotten a lot better. She is going to get a lot of innings for us this year.”

Not to be overshadowed by an underclassman, the Warrior offense had its share of highlights, too, jumping on Struthers starting pitcher Alexis Bayus for six runs in the first two innings.

With one out and Sam Blashinsky at first, Gia Saturday had her first of three hits on the day, smoking a gapper to left-center to score Blashinsky from first. Two batters later, Saturday touched home on an RBI single from Mo Lynch to put Edgewood up, 2-0.

The Warrior bats were potent in the second inning as well, scoring four more runs to blow the game open. After a leadoff walk to Mercedes Burns, the Warriors collected three consecutive hits. Katie Crooks legged out a bunt single, followed by a base knock off the bat of Blashinsky. After Burns came home on a wild pitch, Taylor Rowe doubled home a run. Rowe was caught trying to steal third and Saturday was retired on a ground ball to second. However, Taylor Deimer singled, followed by an RBI double from Lynch to knock Bayus out of the game.

“Early in the game, we has some real good at-bats and we hit the ball hard,” Cunha said. “Gia is our leader. She is our senior leader for a reason. She’s having a really good year, right now. She has been more consistent this year in her approach at the plate and it’s showing. Her and Mo, and really our top 5 or 6 hitters, have been doing a nice job for us this year.”

After cruising through the first four innings, McNeil ran into her only real trouble in the  fifth . A pair of walks and a wild pitch gave the Wildcats runners at second and third with one out. Kaitlyn Fuschella had an RBI groundout to second to get Struthers on the board. The next batter, Nicole Scorianato, hit a comebacker that ricocheted through the legs of McNeil, allowing an unearned run to cross the plate. That was all the damage Struthers could muster, though.

The Wildcats had baserunners in both the sixth and seventh inning. McNeil, however, was able to keep them off the scoreboard.

“She’s a good pitcher,” Struthers coach Sam Ditman said. “She had some speed and she did a good job of keeping us off-balance. We missed some opportunities where we needed to capitalize on our hitting and didn’t do it.

“(Edgewood) is a very good team. They have a lot of potential, they work together, they talk to each other and are a well disciplined group.”

“That fifth inning, I think she (McNeil) relaxed a little bit and lost her edge,” Cunha said. When you’re a pitcher or any player, for that matter, when you kind of relax and lose that, it’s hard to get it back. But she got it back, she settled down and the last two innings, she threw the ball pretty close to the way she did the first couple of innings.”

Saturday had RBI hits in the fifth and sixth innings, both times scoring Rowe to close out the Edgewood scoring.

Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.

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