AKRON — Elyria softball coach Ken Fenik said senior pitcher Caitlyn Minney can work the ball high and low, inside and out.
Mason described Minney’s pitching as wild.
The bottom line?
Minney struck out nine Comets hitters during a three-hit shutout as the Pioneers rolled to a 5-0 victory in a rain-delayed Division I state semifinal Thursday night.
“Everything (was working) … all my pitches,” Minney said. “But (the Mason hitters) were laying off good — they did their job, too.”
Five of the first seven Mason batters worked the count full against Minney, with Sami Parave and Liz Hillen drawing walks and Megan Warren being hit by a Minney pitch.
“We knew she was struggling throwing strikes early,” Warren said. “She was throwing all over the place. But when we got the good pitches, we couldn’t find the holes. She had a good defense behind her, too.”
The Pioneers’ defense did come up big on several plays to keep Minney’s shutout alive.
Warren was robbed of an RBI extra-base hit in the third inning when Elyria center fielder Kaitlyn Laseke made a diving catch in the gap, and Mason’s Liz Hillen was cut down at home on a perfect relay from the outfield in the fourth.
“It was big,” Minney said of throwing a shutout in a state tournament game. “But I did it with my team behind me. I always do my best with my team behind me.”
The patient approach against Minney wasn’t something new for Mason, according to coach Liann Muff.
“Each girl has a certain pitch they like to hit,” Muff said. “We knew she throws inside, out and up, so we told our hitters to sit back and wait for that pitch they liked to come.
“We had some chances, and we don’t feel we were dominated by her. We were just that one clutch hit away from scoring a run in each inning.”
Despite having to work deep into counts during the first run through the Mason lineup, Minney had a no-hitter going until Hillen singled to right field with two outs in the fourth inning. Parave added a two-out double — with nobody on — in the fifth, and Tory Stewart beat out the throw for an infield single to shortstop to lead off the sixth.
Those were the only three hits Mason could manage.
“(Minney) was pretty darn good out there tonight,” Fenik said. “She’s really come on over the second half of the season, especially since that finger’s healed (from an injury at the Prebis tournament). I think she showed everyone why she’s a two-time All-Ohio first-teamer.”
Now Minney and the Pioneers will face nemesis North Canton Hoover for the Division I state championship Saturday at 10 a.m. The teams have become rivals over the past decade, and nobody knows the Vikings better than Minney.
“I’ve played (travel ball) with every one of them,” she said. “I know them, they know me. I think that helps me … but it hurts, too. I guess they kind of know what to do against me.”
The Pioneers are hoping it won’t be much.
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.