The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

July 13, 2014

Conneaut prevails!

Locals advance in thriller; Tallmadge in driver’s seat; Canfield, Ironton also still going strong

ASHTABULA — After taking a solid thumping Friday afternoon, one had to wonder how the Conneaut All-Stars would react Saturday at the Little League State Tournament at Cederquist Park.

Question answered — in a big way!

Saturday morning, Conneaut took on a team from Bucyrus that had an even worse day Friday against a quality foe, being the victim of a no-hitter, to boot, in a 20-0 loss to Tallmadge.

Saturday, the locals recorded a thrilling 10-9 triumph against Bucyrus in an elimination game.

“My concentration today was not to focus on little hiccups like we had yesterday,” Conneaut manager John Notte said. “We just needed to start hitting the ball and to not worry about mistakes.

“The other team (Bucyrus) is a group of winners, or they would not even be in this tournament. This was a tight game with several key issues, so I really think the officials need to be complimented on making right decisions to allow the girls to play ball today.”

The win catapults Conneaut into another elimination battle today, against Ironton, at 2 p.m. on Wilkenson Field . Ironton, playing at the same time as Conneaut and Bucyrus were on Herzog Field, gave up a run on an infield out in the bottom of the sixth inning to drop a 1-0 thriller to Canfield. C

Canfield followed that up with a 3-2 loss to Tallmadge in the winners’ bracket title game to set the stage for the rest of the tourney.

Conneaut advanced to today’s action by pushing a run across the plate in the bottom of the sixth.

Consecutive errors on the infield by Bucyrus set the stage, putting runners at first and second. A double-steal moved them to second and third with none out.

Hannah Clark then drew a walk to jam the bases, brining Lillian Spees to the dish.

Spees drilled a sharp grounder toward shortstop. The ball got free and Michaella Notte dashed home with the gamewinner, putting Conneaut in today’s matchup against Ironton.

John Notte was off-the-charts proud of the way his squad bounced back after being beaten by  Tallmadge, the winners’ bracket champion, in its opener Friday night.

“My players gave me and my coaches our reward today just by getting to this point,” he said. “It was a great effort.”

It was anything but easy, though.

Conneaut fell behind quickly against Bucyrus, but rallied in the first inning to take a lead in a see-saw contest. After seeing the lead evaporate in the heat, though, it refused to throw in the towel.

Conneaut scored 3 runs in each of the first, third and fourth innings to carry a 9-7 lead into the top of the sixth. With solid relief pitching from Allie Webster, Conneaut looked to be in good shape.

With 1 out, though, a hit by pitch and throwing error, with a passed ball thrown into the mix, cost Conneaut 1 run, and a bases-loaded walk to Alexis Schifer tied the game at 9-9, setting the stage for Conneaut’s final-frame finish to emerge victorious.

Ahead 3-2 in the top of the third inning, one of those moments, maybe the biggest one over the course of the game, came into play as Bucyrus tallied 3 times to grab a brief 5-3 lead.

A pair of walks sandwiched around a single by Taylor Carr which careened off of pitcher Hannah Clark’s right knee got the second run home after a wild pitch tallied the first one. An infield grounder apparently got the second out of the inning, but an appeal on the play which went from second baseman Rylee Mickle to first baseman Spees for an out was argued by Bucyrus manager Rob Berry.

The argument was that Spees had the ball in her right hand while making a tag with her gloved left hand. The appeal was discussed with tourney officials for about 15 minute. Finally, the appeal was upheld, allowing the third run of the frame to score.

Never-say-die Conneaut was not deflated, though, by either the delay nor the result. The locals got off the canvas and tallied 3 more times in the bottom of the fourth inning to retake the lead, which they held until the decisive sixth.

“I think it was a matter of us making key mistakes at the wrong time today,” Berry said. “Part of it is my fault, too, for a key mistake I made while coaching third. I didn’t warn a runner there fast enough about getting back to the bag and she got picked off. That was a critical error on my part, and then the girls had 3 more in the last inning.”

Still, the Berry was pleased his girls had the opportunity to journey here and play with and against the best the Buckeye State has to offer.

“It’s a little disappointing to leave now, but I think being here was a very good learning experience for our girls,” he said. “They played a great team yesterday, and then battled a good team on even terms today. This whole experience has to make them better players and teammates.”

For Conneaut, Clark hurled the first 3.1 innings. She only gave up 4 hits and made  big pitches when she had to. She also keyed the offense with a pair of hits, including a ringing, first-inning double that plated 2 runs. She scored 3 times herself.

Michaella Notte and Sydney Carpenter each scored twice, Spees had a pair of hits that drove in 4 runs, and although Conneaut hurlers Clark, Abbie Webster and Allyson Tattrie danced around an elusive strike zone at times, the defense made enough good plays to keep things from getting out of hand.

Taylor Carr had 2 of the 4 Bucyrus hits. Donna Richardson reached base and scored 4 straight times and Alexis Schifer drove home 3 runs.

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