ELYRIA — A softball team can make plenty of postseason noise by riding the arm of a strong pitcher.
Elyria showed that to be true Wednesday with a 4-0 victory over Olmsted Falls in a Division I sectional final. Caitlyn Minney tossed a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and no walks as the Pioneers had no trouble getting past the Bulldogs.
Elyria (20-5) advances to the district semifinals at North Ridgeville High on Tuesday against Westlake, who beat Avon 1-0, at 3 p.m.
While Minney was dominating on the mound, the Pioneers offense got a spark from sophomore MacKenzie Phares, who led off the fourth with Elyria’s first hit and came around to score for the only run Minney needed.
“That was a really good team and they have good people in their league (Southwestern Conference),” Pioneers coach Ken Fenik said.
“Thank goodness Phares started us with that hit. That’s what tournament games are … a break here or a break there determines the winner.”
Phares (2-for-2) led off the fourth with a flare over second base to get the first hit off Olmsted Falls starter Kate Edgehouse (8-5). Senior Marie Masters followed with a sacrifice bunt that Edgehouse threw high at first base to put runners at second and third with no outs.
Edgehouse finished the game with four strikeouts and just one walk in her final game for Olmsted Falls (12-12).
“I think we knew that if we hung in there, we could hit her pitches,” Phares said. “(Scoring first) gave us a lot of confidence that we could go up there and score some more.”
Patty Davis drove home the first run and Sybil Roseboro gave Elyria a 2-0 lead with a bunt toward the third-base line.
After putting a pair of runs on the board, Minney retired the side in the fifth to keep Olmsted Falls from building any momentum.
“We were really confident about this game,” Minney said. “Everything was working for me today on the mound. I don’t think we were nervous at all, we were just excited to start the tournament.”
The Pioneers tacked on runs in the fifth and sixth for a little cushion on the scoreboard.
Haley Looney singled, stole second and was driven home by Phares’ second hit of the game. Freshman Carly Bachna drove in Alexis Roseboro in the sixth after Roseboro reached on a hit and stole second to get in scoring position.
Jordan Jaeckin was the only Bulldogs baserunner to reach second base, doubling to deep right-center to open the sixth. She was stranded at second as Minney got three groundouts, and Minney struck out the side in the seventh to end the game.
“We had a really good practice (Tuesday) and worked on our short game,” Fenik said. “It helped us score those first couple of runs. The people we had on base were flying. That’s one thing about our team — we have people who can run.”
Before the Pioneers’ next tournament game, they will have a makeup game against Medina on Friday at home. Elyria already has a share of the Valley Division wrapped up in the Northeastern Ohio Conference, but can clinch an outright title with a win over the Bees.
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.