The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

May 3, 2013

Eagles pluck Falcons

Geneva edges Jefferson in softball clash

By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Geneva softball coach Eleshia Pitcher wasn’t sure exactly what she was going to get from her squad as the Eagles traveled to Jefferson for their battle with the Falcons.

Turns out, Pitcher had very little to be concerned with. Geneva topped the Falcons, 3-2, at the JAGS Complex.

“I know last year, we made a few errors and lost to them,” Pitcher said. “I was nervous. They were quiet on the bus. This is the first time we’ve played four games in a week. They’re a little tired.

“I was nervous. I knew Jefferson is a good team. I was hoping we would put the ball in play. Our bats were a little slow, but we did very well today. I was proud of them.”

That quiet demeanor may have meant the Eagles (11-2, 8-1 in Premier Athletic Conference) were just locked in.

“All the credit goes to Geneva,” Jefferson coach Don McCormack said. “When it came time to make a play, with the exception of that run we pushed across in the first, they made it. They made all the plays, capitalized on our mistakes, pitched well and played good defense. That’s what good teams do.

“It’s no surprise to us. We know they’re a very talented team, experienced, well-coached. That’s a team that won’t beat itself and today we didn’t beat them. All the credit goes to them.”

The Eagles tallied two in the fifth to break open a 1-1 game.

Sarah Depp singled with one out and raced all the way to third when the ball got by a Jefferson outfielder. Alyssa Donato hit a ground ball to third, but Depp slid in ahead of the tag. Taylor Stoltz then singled home Donato from second for what would prove later to be the clincher.

“(The hit) meant a lot (coming against a number of summer teammates),” Stoltz said. “I just tried to go up and hit like I would against everyone else. With Alyssa (Irons) pitching, I was just trying to ignore who she was. Eleshia told to just get a base hit. I swung and got a base hit.”

“(The timely hit) was something we’ve not gotten this year,” Eleshia Pitcher said. “We’ve had the bases loaded a few times and couldn’t score (this season). (Irons) has a good changeup and kept us off balance.”

The Falcons had taken a 1-0 lead in the home half of the first without recording a hit.

First baseman Bailey Beckwith drew a one-out walk and center fielder Sarah Busch sacrificed her to second. Beckwith rounded second on the throw to get Busch and headed for third. As Beckwith slid into the bag, the ball scooted into left field, allowing Beckwith to trot home.

The Eagles’ Sydney McCaleb reached on an error to open the third and Depp singled with two outs. A tapper from Donato caused some confusion on the Jefferson infield, allowing her to reach safely and McCaleb and Depp to advance. An infield single from Becky Depp scored McCaleb to knot the score, 1-1.

After the Eagles took the 3-1 advantage, Kaycee Fusco gave the Falcons (14-3, 6-1 in All-American Conference) a chance with a leadoff homer to left in the bottom of the fifth.

“Kaycee gave us the chance to play for one run,” McCormack said. “In this game, that’s all you can ask for. With two good teams, playing down two against a good pitcher and a quality team, it’s a longshot. Down one, anything can happen.

“We had a base runner in the seventh and couldn’t get a bunt down. We never made the threat. They beat us. I’m not afraid to tip my cap and say they deserved it.”

Amy Pitcher (9-2) allowed four hits and fanned 10 in getting the young Jefferson hitters to chase the exact pitches she wanted them to.

“I just kept throwing hard,” Amy Pitcher said. “They were back off the plate and they were making the adjustments, so I just kept throwing outside.

“I just kept throwing and they just kept swinging.”

“She stayed calm,” Eleshia Pitcher said. “She didn’t seem to let anything affect her today. In a close game, she never loses her cool.

“Taylor told me early on that (the Jefferson hitters) were back in the box, so we were throwing screwballs on the outside. I was surprised they were watching them (go by). We kept moving the ball around and Amy did a good job hitting her spots.”  

“I don’t think we were on her the whole game,” McCormack said. “I thought she was in control. She kept us off balance. We didn’t put any consistency together from inning one to inning seven.”

After two blowout victories entering the contest, the Falcons may not have been ready for the dealings of Amy Pitcher.

“The last two nights came too easy,” McCormack said. “We scored 32 runs on 40 hits in 10 innings. We weren’t playing Geneva. They’re a defending champion and still leading their league for a reason.”

Irons (4-2) struck out 11 in the loss.

The Falcons were without starting shortstop Deanna Comp, who underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured left ankle.

“She’s our best player, our best hitter, our shortstop,” McCormack said. “That being said, we were leading the game. We didn’t make some plays. That’s where Dee makes a difference.

“She’s a steadying influence, a great kid and a great player. We’ll miss her regardless of the result. We look forward to having her back next year.”

Geneva hurler Kristen Schupska was unavailable after spraining her right thumb Tuesday. She’s out two or three weeks.        

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.