MINERAL RIDGE – The OHSAA tournament is essentially a new season. Everyone is 0-0.
The Mineral Ridge softball team is no stranger to making postseason runs. Between 1978 and 1987, the Rams played in five state semifinal games, with a state runner-up finish in 1983 and 1987 along with the ultimate prize – a state championship in 1985.
Monday evening, they started that first step getting past the Leetonia Bears 11-1 in a Division IV Sectional Semifinal.
Sydney Wyllie led the Rams with three hits and three RBIs.
Aliyah Whittaker added two hits and an RBI as Mineral Ridge eventually got used to what Leetonia’s Skyler Davis was throwing, scoring multiple runs from the second inning on.
“When we go from a fast pitcher to something like this, it’s hard for them to adjust,” Mineral Ridge coach John Scheckelhoff said. “They see a big balloon coming. They want to reach out and by the time it gets to them it’s already too late, it’s already gone past them or they’ve been hitting it off the end of the bat. “
Maddy Yvonne was stellar for the Rams retiring the first nine batters she faced as she finished with four strikeouts and no walks giving up just three hits for the game.
“She was a steady thrower,” Leetonia coach John Deal said. “She was throwing strikes. Girls just weren’t making contact early. It was unfortunate. I thought we could have played a little better. I thought we had an opportunity tonight but things just didn’t work out for us. ”
That opportunity presented itself in the top half of the fourth inning when Gracie Duko led the inning off with a dribbler in front of catcher Aaiyah Wall. She eventually stole second and third and scored on Allison Francosky’s single.
Duko’s two steals pushed her up to 23 on the season which is a school record that she continues to build on after surpassing the old record of 19 a few nights ago.
“She’s something special,” Deal said. “There’s no doubt about it. That whole senior class without a doubt, four of the best athletes I’ve ever been around. ”
Davis grounded out to second to end the threat with the score being 4-1.
The Rams responded with a three-run fourth as the Bears held Mineral Ridge to just one hit but committed two errors to make it 7-1.
It’s been a common thread for Leetonia.
“That’s kind of been our story all year,” Deal said. “It’s just been a rough go with the bats. We’ve had a couple of mistakes, things go down, and then we’re not able to recover. So it was an ongoing battle this year. ”
Yvonne recovered in the fifth inning holding the Bears in check after Maddie Holisky led the inning off with a single.
“I think we missed a really good opportunity,” Deal said. “I think we could have played a lot better and I’m a little upset.”
The game eventually fell apart for Davis, as she gave up singles to Whittaker and Anastasia Busse.
Busse’s single was her second RBI for the game. Lily Merollilo walked and Wyllie finished her perfect evening with a two-RBI single to make it 10-1.
A Chayanne Ferguson’s fielder’s choice scored Christy to end the game via the 10-run rule.
Scheckelhoff hopes this opening tournament game gets them ready for what they’ll see against Brookfield on Wednesday.
“We should have hit a lot harder than we did,” Scheckelhoff said. “Simply, they weren’t patient enough. They’re hitting off the end of the bat. It’s just an adjustment they have to make. “