After being cooped up in gymnasiums for the better part of the season so far, the Conneaut and Lakeside softball teams were just happy to get onto a diamond. Playing for the first time in nearly a week, the Spartans toppled the Dragons, 11-2, Thursday afternoon at Lakeside.
“With the weather and us being an independent and teams having to play other league teams, just getting out and playing was important for us,” Conneaut coach Nick Armeni said. “There’s only so much you can do being indoors.”
The Spartans (5-1) jumped on the Lakeside pitchers and used 15 hits to tally their 11 runs.
“They were aggressive,” Lakeside coach Jodi Candela said. “They came in ready to hit the ball.”
Seven of the 10 Spartans who played had hits and scored and all 10 got on base in one way or another.
“There are certain things we try and do,” Armeni said. “We really work at hitting to the opposite field. Toward the end of the game, we did that. We got some pretty good swings on it. We try to have the same approach every game. We try to stay back on everything and hit the ball back up the middle or to the opposite field.
“Every plate appearance is a learning experience for us right now.”
Alyssa Chadwick got things rolling for Conneaut with a bunt single to open the game. She stole second then took third on a passed ball before scoring on another one.
“It was important for our confidence,” Armeni said. “Getting a number on the scoreboard makes everything so much easier. There’s less pressure. We had 6 freshmen out there. Getting a lead and playing with that lead, they’re not as tight.”
Amanda Chadwick then led off the second with a double and took third when the throw went into right field. She scored on a single by Alexis Nelson. Nelson later scored to make it 3-0 on a single by Lexi Zappitelli.
The Chadwicks combined for 7 hits and 5 runs. Amanda had 4 of those hits, including a double, and scored 3 times while Alyssa had a trio of perfectly placed bunt singles and scored twice.
“(All of the pitches) just looked down the middle to me,” Amanda Chadwick said. “I felt really good. I just take a deep breath and don’t think in the box. All I think about is seeing the ball and I can hit it a lot better.”
“How to place the ball is just something I was always taught,” Alyssa Chadwick said. “I was just doing what I know how to do.”
Brianna Oatman, who relieved Zappitelli in the 3rd inning with that 3-0 lead, got her first varsity win.
“It felt really good to come in and just be able to throw,” she said. “I was able to be relaxed and just throw.”
Oatman (1-0) worked 4 innings, allowed 3 hits, 2 runs, both earned, struck out 1 and walked no one.
“(Oatman) came in in the second game at Twinsburg,” Armeni said. “They were up 6-2 with the bases loaded. She pitched great the rest of the way, giving up 2 hits and 1 run and they’re a good team. It was a confidence boost for all of us.
“She never gets rattled. You can’t tell if we’re up 10 runs or down 10 runs. She just pitches.”
Zappitelli allowed just 1 hit, fanned 3 and walked 1 in her 2 innings. Alyssa Chadwick worked a scoreless seventh. She struck out 1.
The Spartans took advantage of a pair of Lakeside errors to tally 2 more runs in the third for a 5-0 advantage.
“Those errors in the field were because they were expecting a hop like they get in the gym with those flexi balls,” Candela said. “Our outfielders have to learn how to judge routine fly balls. Again, how do you do that in the gym? It’s not an excuse, but, really, it is.”
In the fourth, Zappitelli singled and scored on an Oatman single. Amanda Chadwick’s single led off the fifth. She was doubled home by Nelson, who scored on a bunt single by Alyssa Chadwick for an 8-1 Spartan lead. Tehiya Higley and Alyssa Chadwick singled in consecutive at-bats before Rebecca Sackett’s single brought them in. Sackett later scored on a wild pitch for the game’s final tally.
Zappitelli, Nelson and Oatman all had a pair of hits, Nelson and Sackett each had 2 RBI and Nelson scored twice.
Courtney Smith doubled and later scored on a sacrifice attempt by Taylor Cochran in the fourth for the Dragons’ first run. Toni Stranman singled and scored on a double by Alayna Hanna in the fifth.
The Dragons (0-3, 0-1 in Premier Athletic Conference) netted 6 hits.
“Hitting-wise, our girls are still building confidence,” Candela said. “They’re just up there getting used to swinging a bat (in game situations). We’ve been spending a lot of time in the cage. We knew we were facing Lexi today, so we cranked up the machine to get ready for that.”
Andrea Davis (0-2) started and took the loss for the Lakeside.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.