By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Edgewood softball coach Steve Cunha had seen it before. His Warriors fell behind early, gave up a big inning and rallied late only to fall a bit short.
The Warriors followed that same path in falling, 8-2, to Lake Catholic in a Division II sectional semifinal at Lake Catholic on Wednesday.
“It gets old to talk about,” Cunha said. “But it is what it is. It’s not from a lack of effort. It would have been easy to quit, but in the bottom of the sixth, we’ve got outfielders diving for balls, kids busting down the right-field line to catch foul balls.
“It’s never been a question of effort or desire. It’s execution. Those are things you can fix as a coach. It’s never been a lack of effort or caring. That’s never been an issue nor will it ever be.”
The fourth-seeded Cougars (15-6) will play third-seeded Jefferson (19-4) in a Division II sectional championship today at the JAGS Complex.
“(Jefferson) has a great team,” Lake Catholic coach Dale Colagross said. “They didn’t get the No. 3 seed for nothing. NDCL voted them third, they might have seen them. I have not seen them.
“We’re not going to do anything different. We’ll read the situation and react to it. We’ll try to play our normal game and let it be as it may. If you start changing the routine, the kids are confused easily and they don’t know what they’re doing. We want to keep it consistent.”
The Warriors’ season will end Friday with a visit to Fairview (Pa.).
After Taylor Rowe led off the game with a bloop single that hit the chalk of the left-field line and moved up on a sacrifice bunt from Sam Blashinsky. Gia Saturday followed with a walk, but Lake Catholic starter Nicole Novotny got the next batter swinging and got the third out as the Edgewood batter watched her paint a corner.
It looked as if the Cougars were going to suffer a similar fate in the bottom half of the inning. Savannah Karako led off with a single, but Liz Karako bounced a hard-hit ball right back at Edgewood hurler Gabriella Patete, who turned and throw to shortstop Saturday, starting a 1-6-3 double play.
The good vibes were spoiled a batter later for the Warriors.
Consecutive doubles from Kaitlin Spahar and Liz Kent led to the first Lake Catholic run and an RBI single from Jessie Kent gave the Cougars a 2-0 lead after one.
“Getting up on top early makes it difficult on the other team,” Colagross said. “It takes some things away as far as bunting and things like that. You have to change your game when you’re playing catchup.”
No runner for either team made it as far as third over the next three innings.
Melissa Marjak changed that in the fifth with a leadoff double for the Cougars. She moved up on a groundball out and scored when Savannah Karako reached on an error. Savannah Karako scored on Liz Karako’s single, who in turn, scored on a single by Spahar.
“We got timely hits up and down the lineup,” Colagross said. “A couple of the younger kids even came through. The one, two, three and four spots are where we want out better hitters, but we don’t live off those girls. Everybody in the lineup can hit.”
Liz Kent and Jessie Kent each added their own RBI singles and Lake Catholic led, 7-0, through five.
“We knew their top four or five were really good,” Cunha said. “In the first inning, we knew we were taking our chances. It’s frustrating.
“After the first, we got through the next three innings. We got runners in, but we struggled.”
Novotny (8-3) held the Warriors to just two hits through five innings and picked up the win.
Edgewood finally broke through in the sixth. Blashinsky found the chalk up the left-field line for a single and Saturday hit a rocket off of third base. Taylor Diemer singled to left to load the bases.
After a popup, Ashten Noce singled home Blashinsky and Saturday. Mo Lynch followed with another single to load the bases once again.
Novotny then wiggled off the hook a second time. Again, striking out the last two with the last batter getting rung up.
“She made some nice pitches,” Cunha said. “She threw a couple of changeups with two strikes and froze our hitters. She worked down in the zone and we had a hard time squaring up on the ball.”
Patete (9-8) took the loss.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.