By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Locked in a scoreless battle with visiting Edgewood in the home half of the fifth, coach Nick Armeni told the Conneaut softball team it needed to make something happen.
The Spartans rallied for four runs and held off the late-charging Warriors for a 4-2 victory at Skippon Park.
With Edgewood hurler Gabriella Patete perplexing the Spartan hitters, Armeni sent down the command for his troops to bunt before trying to reach base with a hit in order to jump-start the offense. The ploy worked.
“We are in a little bit of a team slump, I think,” Armeni said. “Part of that was who we played this weekend. We got to the point where we had to be aggressive and make things happen.”
The bottom, then the top, of the lineup did exactly what it was supposed to in setting the table for the middle part of the batting order.
“That was huge,” Armeni said. “We talk about that all the time. We do need to execute offensively and defensively, as well.
“That goes back to executing. We’ve played so many close games where we had to hold a lead or come back from being down and have to get a hit or make a play. We put the bunt down.”
Amanda Chadwick, the ninth batter for the Spartans, led off the inning with a single to right-center. Lydia Coccitto and Dani Heinonen followed with back-to-back bunt singles to load the bases.
“Sometimes, it’s not how hard you hit it, but where you hit it,” Edgewood coach Steve Cunha said. “Realistically, if we play those correctly, get out of there giving up two runs instead of four and we tie it up.”
Lexi Zappitelli cleared the bases with a triple to right-center to put Conneaut up, 3-0.
“With the bases loaded, you can’t pitch around Lexi,” Cunha said. “She hit a decent ball.”
“That’s clutch,” Armeni said. “I’ve got to have faith in those girls that they’ll get the job done and they’ve got to have faith in themselves.”
Angie Zappitelli followed, lifting a fly ball to straight-away center. The ball was lost in the sun and dropped for an RBI single and a 4-0 advantage for the Spartans (10-2).
“That’s pretty much how the year has gone for us,” Cunha said. “We played six good innings. You have to play seven good innings to win.
“Even if we catch that, with her speed, we’re not going to throw her out.”
The Warriors (8-8) answered in the top of the sixth.
“We had better at-bats in the last two innings than we had the rest of the game,” Cunha said. “That’s why we play seven innings.”
Kate Crooks led off with an infield single and Taylor Rowe followed with a bunt single. Crooks was caught between second and third and erased when Gia Saturday reached on an error. Patete followed with a single to center to plate Rowe, and Blashinsky scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit in half at 4-2.
“Except those couple of plays in the fifth, that’s pretty much how we played the last 10 days or two weeks,” Cunha said. “Gabby threw the ball well again today. It was just one inning.”
Conneaut starter Angie Zappitelli then induced a popup and got a strikeout to end the inning.
The Spartans threatened in the sixth, but a ground ball to Saturday led to a double play and the end of the inning.
Taylor Diemer and Crooks both singled to open the seventh, but relief pitcher Lexi Zappitelli induced a popup, caught a liner back through the box then got a strikeout for the save.
Angie Zappitelli (2-0) picked up the win. She worked six innings, allowed two earned runs on five hits in striking out six.
Patete (8-3) took the loss in allowing four earned runs on 12 hits. She struck out five, walked two and hit a batter.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.