By Ty Bartell
YOUNGSTOWN OH- Following a home victory in the sectional final against The Lakeside Dragons, The Austintown Fitch Falcons Softball Club made it back to the district semis! Their opponent? The Madison Blue Streaks coached by David Negin, coming off a win against The Lake Blue Streaks. The last time the two schools met in a playoff scenario was in girls basketball back in 2021, when The Blue Streaks hosted The Falcons in a 75-40 effort, this time around it was taken to the softball diamond at Youngstown State University (YSU), home of The Penguins.
YSU will actually have the honor of not only being the host site for the Division 1 Northeast 2 districts, but also the Division 1 Region 1 regionals as well! Making it almost poetic for a Falcons squad that has worked so hard to get back to the point they were last year to take the next step, that in the end, it all goes down on the same field from almost one year ago. Sydnie Watts was set to make her first tournament start of the 2023 campaign after Jeweliana Farmer did her thing in the sectionals to get Fitch to this point.
Lexie Nicholson led off the game for The Blue Streaks getting hit by a pitch and starting with a runner at first. Watts labored through her command a bit to follow, but The Fitch defense came through with an attempted steal on the base paths, a good strong throw by McKenna Hogan and excellen tag applied by Ayla Ray erased the would be base stealer, as Watts followed up the manufactured out with two strikeouts to end the top of the first.
On the batting side, Ayla Ray was able to reach third to lead off the bottom of the first following an error in the outfield by Madison. Caitlin Mitchell put together a quality at-bat, fouling off a ton of really good pitches by Kara MeKulsia in the circle; however, Mitchell broke through with an RBI-single in the bottom of the first, allowing Fitch to strike an early 1-0 lead. “The Geologist” Kylie Folkwein followed it up with a productive out, scoring an additional run on a sacrifice fly to increase The Fitch lead 2-0, after an inning. Watts was in rhythm from the circle following the first, striking out a pair and sending The Streaks down in order for the top of the second. Morgan Roby got a one out single in the bottom of the inning before she was sacrificed into scoring position by Madi Beaudis before “Ace of Bases” Ayla Ray knocked her in with an RBI-single to pad the Fitch lead 3-0 after two innings of play.
Watts was business as usual in the third, striking out two more in another 1..2..3 inning from the circle before coming back to lead of the bottom of the inning with her bat, which Watts deposited a pitch from MeKulsia to the bleachers out in center with a mammoth solo homerun to start a five run third inning for The Falcons! Abby Toth had a two RBI-double, Morgan Roby had an RBI-single and Ayla Ray had an RBI-single giving Austintown a commanding 8-0 lead after three.
Watts continued to dazzle in the circle, surrendering a pair of walks since the hit by pitch in the first, but pitched relatively stress free. Fitch added a run in the fifth with a Morgan Roby sac-fly to score Abby Toth from third making it 9-0, putting Fitch on the precipice of ending it early by enforcing the mercy rule. Through six innings of work in the circle, Sydnie Watts had a no hitter going while striking out 15 batters, leaving many wondering “what more can she do?” Ask, and she shall deliver because WATTS YOU GONNA DO WHEN FALCONMANIA RUNS WILD ON YOU! A two run blast in the bottom of the sixth, Watts’ second of the game, ended The District Semi-Final with Fitch on top 11-0, booking them a trip back to The District Final!
The loss for Madison ends their season at a 14-11 clip overall, with us here at Your Sports Network (YSN) wishing The Blue Streak seniors nothing but the best in their future endeavors and nothing but the best of luck to the returning players of Madison next year. Fitch (17-0) will stay undefeated as they will be set up in a rematch with The Mentor Cardinals (12-10) a matchup The Falcons won the first time around 11-1 back on March 31st, in The Cardinals first game of the season. The District Final matchup is slated for Wednesday, May 17th with a 5 p.m. first pitch as YSN will be there for all the coverage. An interview with Player of The Game Sydnie Watts can be found below!