By Ty Bartell
With countless area conferences being decided on both the baseball and softball side. However, The All-American Conference (AAC) has been hanging in the balance between two top area softball teams, Austintown-Fitch and Canfield since May 4th when nine innings could not decide a winner in a 3-3 tie. The two ball clubs were scheduled to play the second game of a two-game set on May 5th, but through countless rainy days and the start of The OHSAA tournament, both teams settled on May 22nd as the makeup date.
With the new date set, and beautiful weather as the setting, The Falcons and The Cardinals were ready to duke it out to determine who would take The AAC crown! Fitch was entering the game winners of the conference three consecutive times, looking for a fourth. Whereas the current edition of The Cardinals were looking for their first taste of the AAC Championship. Both teams also were coming off District Championship victories where The Fitch Falcons defeated The Mentor Cardinals in Division 1 and The Canfield Cardinals, coincidentally, bested The Field Falcons in Division 2. Showcasing just how even both teams have been all season!
As expected, pitching was going to have the proverbial magnifying glass placed upon it as the main focus entering the game. Hard not to when the arms include Sydnie Watts (Fitch) and Malena Toth (Canfield) as both right-handers sported an ERA under 1 and tallied 200+ strikeouts a piece this year. In the previous out, Toth registered 20 strikeouts against Fitch, while Watts did not do shabby herself, fanning 17 in the first meeting. Both arms shut the opposing lineup down through the first five innings on Monday, although the strikeouts numbers were not quite the same, the pitching dominance was!
The Falcons struck first in the top of the sixth inning when Ayla Ray sat on third base and was brought home via the suicide squeeze play executed by Watts, scoring Ray and giving Fitch the slim 1-0 advantage. Watts would come back in the bottom of the inning and get out of a jam, with the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Watts struckout Malena Toth to preserve the lead. The Following inning, Toth set Austintown down in order to get her offense back on the field and would you guess what was in the cards? A game-tying solo blast to left field by Marina Koenig to leadoff the bottom of the seventh, dramatically tying the game to start the frame!
Watts would go on to prevent any further damage, keeping the game tied 1-1 after seven innings of play. Following a brief discussion with the game umpires, coaching staffs from both Austintown-Fitch and Canfield unanimously agreed to call the ball game a tie, thus giving us Co-AAC Champions in 2023! Through two games, 16 innings of play, with both teams each scoring four runs on one another in those two games. In the two games, Malena Toth pitched all 16 innings, striking out 31 (11 in game two), while Sydnie Watts also pitched all 16 innings and struck out, guess what? 31 batters (14 in game two) showcasing just how even both teams and both arms have been against each other all season!
Fitch (18-0-2) will now go on to face Berea-Midpark (21-4) in a Regional Semi-Final on Wednesday, May 24th at Youngstown State University, slated for a 2 p.m. first pitch. As for Canfield (21-2-2) they will also be in a Regional Semi-Final game against Holy Name (17-2) also on Wednesday, the site of the game will be at Nordonia High School and have a first pitch of 5 p.m. interviews with players of both teams can be found below!