AVON LAKE — At the midway point of the season, Elyria Catholic would have had a hard time finding anyone who believed it would be making its third consecutive trip to the Division III district finals.
The way the Panthers played Thursday it looked like the district finals might be just a speed bump on the road to even greater success.
Behind a two-hitter from pitcher Ashley Cascio and two hits each from Sam Filiaggi and Olivia Madera, Elyria Catholic defeated top-seeded Columbia 10-3 in a district semifinal at Avon Lake High School, avenging last year’s district final loss to the Raiders.
The Panthers (12-8) have won nine games in a row and have not lost since April 22 at the J.B. Firestone Invitational. Fifth-seeded EC will face No. 7 seed Oberlin in today’s district final at 4:30. The Phoenix were 9-1 winners over Independence in Thursday’s other semifinal. Elyria Catholic beat Oberlin 3-2 early in the season.
Cascio held the Raiders hitless for five innings until Emily Berg broke through with a one-out single to center in the sixth. Cascio improved to 12-6, finishing the day with three strikeouts. She was also a key component of the Panthers’ offense with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“My curveball and change-up were really working and I was able to do a good job of mixing them up and keep them off balance,” Cascio said. “Before the game I was a little nervous but I’ve been in this situation before and I have confidence in my defense behind me. In fact I give them all the credit because they gave 100 percent all game.”
While Elyria Catholic made a number of solid defensive plays, especially in the infield, defense proved to be the Raiders’ undoing. Columbia (15-6) committed five errors which directly led to four runs.
“I was hoping but it seemed a little iffy,” Madera said, when asked if she thought at the midway point of the season that the Panthers would be back in the district finals. “We all started to realize we needed to work out and we started playing together as a team, then the wins started coming.”
Madera doubled to lead off the fourth inning and had an infield single to load the bases in the fifth.
Kaylie Griffin scored the Panthers’ first run in the third inning after hitting a one-out triple down the left-field line. Elyria Catholic then scored two runs in the fourth and broke the game wide open with a four-run fifth.
“The girls were ready to play today. We’ve been preparing for this for a while,” Elyria Catholic coach Megan Bashak said. “We got all of our errors out of the way in practice and they came out today ready to go.”
Julia Allegretto also scored two runs for the Panthers despite not having an official at-bat. Allegretto walked in the second, put down a sacrifice bunt in the fourth, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in a run in the fifth and walked in the seventh.
Allison Bouscher took the loss for Columbia. Although she had a rough outing Thursday, Bouscher still finished the year 9-3.
“We’ve had our up and downs this season,” Bashak said. “The girls have been plugging away and working harder and harder in each practice. We always tell them don’t settle. Keep going, keep getting as much as you can and the girls are buying into it.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.