MENTOR—No. 2 seed Walsh Jesuit used a pair of eighth-inning singles, coupled with an error, to hold off No. 15 Madison in a Division I district semifinal on Monday, 1-0.
With the win, the Warriors advanced to Wednesday’s district championship game against New Philadelphia, who slipped by Riverside, 1-0, in the other semifinal game.
“We came to compete and that’s all you can ask your team to do is compete,” said Madison coach Arthur Rose. “We pitched well and I thought we played defense pretty well. We were prepared for most of the things they were going to do.”
Madison’s preparation stemmed from a rugged schedule that saw the Blue Streaks line up against some of the top teams from around the state including North Canton Hoover, Warren Champion, Tuscarawas Central Catholic, Indian Valley, and Hebron Lakewood, not to mention their regular participation in the rugged Western Reserve Conference.
The Blue Streaks won their fair share of those games and even played into extra innings with Tuscarawas Central Catholic before falling, 2-1.
Those games prepared the Blue Streaks for the intensity of postseason play.
“I kind of apologized for it after the game,” Rose said. “We played a tremendously difficult out of conference schedule and we play in the toughest conference around, so we played a very hard schedule. We’ve been playing this all year. Tuscarawas Central Catholic ended the same way. It took 10 innings and they got the hit when we didn’t. Indian Valley, Hebron Lakewood, all those tough teams prepared us to at least stay competitive in this.”
Senior Alyssa Lavdis was at the top of her game in limiting a powerful Walsh Jesuit team to just seven hits over eight innings and she struck out eight. The run she allowed was unearned.
“She’s very important,” Rose said. “A talent like that doesn’t come every day. Besides the talent she has, she’s a leader and it means a lot when somebody of her caliber shows faith in their teammates.”
Her teammates rewarded her with several clutch defensive plays to keep the game scoreless such as in the third inning when back-to-back singles left Warriors with runners at second and third and just one out in the inning. A looping line drive was hit into foul territory in left field but Savannah Watren made a diving catch and then doubled up the runner at third to end the threat.
Earlier, Savannah Patrone made a diving catch of a popup in the infield and right fielder Nadia Cruz made a running catch at the fence with her back to the plate in the bottom of the seventh to give the Blue Streaks a chance in extra innings.
“I told them afterward, (Watren’s) catch, Nadia’s catch against the fence there towards the end, those plays kept us playing,” Rose said. “Savannah at first base to hustle to get that little blooper in here, that keeps you in the game.”
Walsh pitcher Natalie Susa limited the Blue Streaks to just three hits in the game. Hallie Blackford, Patrone, and Tahja Brown each had one.
Blackford hit a one-out double in the fourth and Lavdis was hit by a pitch to put two Blue Streaks on base with one out. Susa coaxed a pair of groundouts to end Madison’s best scoring opportunity.
The Blue Streaks also had runners in scoring position in the second and seventh innings but couldn’t get the clutch hit to break the scoreless tie.
“They got the big hit and we didn’t,” Rose said. “I think both teams had a couple chances to win in regulation and neither team came through. They took advantage of their shot right there. Hats off to them, they’re a really good team. A lot of talent over there.”
Walsh opened the eighth inning with an infield single and the next batter reached on an error that left runners at second and third and no outs.
With both the Madison infield and outfield drawn in, a line drive to left field was just out of Watren’s reach and the Warriors pushed across the winning run.
“One hit,” Rose said. “One hit in a couple of those innings and we’re going to the championship but congrats to them.”