By Ty Bartell
AUSTINTOWN OH- Entering game #11 out of a maximum of 22 in a softball regular season, it is fair to say, The Austintown Fitch Falcons Softball Club has entered their midway point of the season. Coming off a successful stint down south, The Falcons racked up a 4-0 record at The Grand Strand Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. In addition to playing a former South Carolina state champion The Falcons played teams from Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland! After all was said and done, Fitch headed back north with an overall regular season record of 10-0. After a couple days recovery time from the trip, Austintown would get back to the diamond Tuesday evening.
Compiling one of the toughest high school softball schedules in the nation, The Falcons were welcomed back to their home turf at The Austintown Fitch Softball Complex where they would play host to Lake County’s own, very talented, Painesville-Riverside Beavers squad! Going into Tuesday The Beavers had a record of 11-2 and were looking to hand Fitch their first loss of the season. Both teams had plenty of quality hitters, with a total of 10 players in the game that had a batting average of .400 or higher, with four players on Riverside and six on Fitch making up the incredible averages.
Austintown would wait little time to get the ball rolling, as sophomore flamethrower Sydnie Watts struckout the side to start the top of the first. In the bottom of the inning, in the first at-bat for The Falcons, Ayla Ray led off the game with a solo shot to right-center, immediately giving Fitch the 1-0 lead. Caitlin Mitchell would take the following pitch and punch it down the third base line for a double. Mitchell would score later in the inning off a Kylie Folkwein RBI-single making it 2-0 Fitch after an inning. Annaliese Davis toted the rock for The BEavers and did a great job getting out of jams and minimizing damage, as both pitchers tossed a scoreless frame in the second inning.
Opening up the third, Watts would strike out the side in the top of the inning for the third consecutive time! Meaning, she struck out the entire order their first time through! Watts would also come up big in the bottom of the inning, launching a towering solo shot to center to lead off the third, stretching the lead 3-0. Fitch would load the bases following the big fly, but Davis managed to walk the tightrope once again and keep her team within striking distance!
If you adjusted your streaming device you may have thought you were seeing a repeat of the first inning, because in the bottom of the fourth, for the second time in the game, Ayla Ray led off the inning with a solo blast to right center! Marking three home runs to lead off an inning in the game by Fitch! Riverside would not go down quietly, as Kayla Bobeczko reached in the fifth and eventually came around to score on an RBI-single from Megan Lehner, scoring just the second run against Austintown to that point in the season! Watts would slam the door on any further offense, as Fitch held a 4-1 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.
Morgan Roby would pinch hit and lead off the inning for The Falcons as she blooped a would be single into right, but a wicked bounce sent the ball to the fence and enabled Roby to dash around the bases for an inside-the-park homerun! It would be Roby’s first homerun of her varsity career, the fourth inside-the-park homerun of the season for Fitch and the fourth time in the game Austintown would lead off an inning with a homerun! The run scored by Roby would be the only in the inning, as the score was 5-1 Fitch after five innings.
Watts pitched a scoreless sixth as Fitch would put a crooked number on the board in the bottom half of the inning when Kylie Folkwein hit a two-run inside-the-park homerun to extend the lead to six! A couple batters later and Tina Montgomery would smack a homerun, this one leaving the park, as Fitch struck for four in the bottom of the sixth and took a commanding 9-1 lead into the seventh.
The Beavers kept up the fight all the way until the end, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh to cut into their deficit. Making it the first team of the season to score multiple runs against Austintown. However, it would not be enough, as Watts was able to record the three outs needed to achieve the 9-3 victory for The Falcons!
The loss for Riverside (11-3) will now get them back into The Western Reserve Conference, where they will square-off with conference leader The Willoughby South Rebels (10-3) on Wednesday, April 19th. For Fitch (11-0) they will now set their sights on another Western Reserve Conference member, this time The Chardon Hilltoppers (11-3) where Fitch will travel to Chardon on Thursday, April 20th slated for a 5 p.m. first pitch!