AVON LAKE — It wasn’t the start or finish Avon Lake was looking for Monday in a Division I sectional softball opener.
The seventh-seeded Shoregals committed three first-inning errors, fell behind by four and never caught up in losing 11-6 to Southwestern Conference foe Westlake at Avon Lake.
“Errors plagued us in that first inning and it cost us four runs,” said Avon Lake coach Jana Peachman, whose Shoregals defeated Westlake 17-3 and 10-7 during the regular season. “You can’t start off like that and beat a team in a playoff game. We’ve had problems like this all year. Our cutoffs may have been trying to do too much and it hurt us.”
The 10th-seeded Demons (10-14) advance to face second-seeded Elyria in Wednesday’s sectional final. Avon Lake fell to 11-10 but has several SWC games left due to rainouts.
The game went bad for the Shoregals right from the start when Kara Kovachick’s first pitch hit Charlotte Button. Paige Bowman followed with a ringing double to left and both runners scored, Bowman coming home when the throw from shortstop went out of play.
Stephanie Randar got a hit to keep things going for Westlake and Sophia Josie reached on an error. Jessica Bernath singled to make it 3-0 and the Demons went up 4-0 on Allie Rochford’s grounder.
Avon Lake battled back, getting a run in the third and three in the fourth to trail just 7-4 going into the fifth inning.
The Shoregals threatened again in the bottom of the fifth when Valicity Zinsmeister and Tessa Maxwell each singled with one out. Sydney Schons got a strikeout, but Kovachick crushed a ball to dead center only to have Ashley Butcher make a running catch at the warning track to end the threat.
Demons coach Tom Shiban called the play the “key moment of the game.”
“That was a huge catch,” he said. “If she doesn’t make that catch it’s 7-6 and a runner in scoring position. That catch really gave us a cushion.”