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Lady Cards captured Red Tier and District titles
May 23, 2018

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Top-seeded Canfield and number three seed Nordonia played a pulse intensifying, heart stopping affair in the Solon district championship of the Division I state tournament last Thursday.

It took ten innings, but the Lady Cardinals were able to outlast the Lady Knights 5-4 to capture that district crown in the game played at Roxbury Elementary School. That makes two consecutive district titles for the Canfield girls. The win sent Canfield (19-8) to Akron University to play Willoughby South in the regional semifinals on May 23.

"Winning back-to-back district championships is a great feeling," said Canfield head coach Ray Melewski after his club knocked off Nordonia.

Canfield was clinging to a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning when the Knights scored on an error to tie the game at 4-4. The score would remain the same over the next four frames. Finally, in the bottom of the tenth, the Cardinals capitalized on a game-winning opportunity. Jill Baker led off the tenth with a base hit. The Knights then botched the ball on an attempted sacrifice bunt off the bat of Kalin Kovach putting runners on first and second. That's when Kaili Gross put her team in the regionals. Gross slapped a single to right-center field bringing Baker home and setting off the Canfield celebration. Fittingly, it was Gross who delivered the championship-clinching hit because she pitched her heart out to keep the Cardinals in the game. The superstar sophomore stymied the Knights on four runs and six hits while striking out eight. She worked all ten innings to up her record to 15-6 while also gaining the adulation of her coach.

"(Gross) got better as the innings went on," said Melewski. "She was better in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings than she was in the first three."

While Gross was playing hero in the district title game, Chloe Cruz was the queen in Canfield's 3-2 district semifinal win over rival Austintown Fitch. With the scored tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning and one out, Canfield's Mary Gomez reached base thanks to a Fitch error. Lauren Fitzgerald was next hit by a pitch pushing Gomez to second base. A sacrifice bunt by Brooke Crissman moved runners to second and third. Cruz then blooped a ball into the outfield to send the Cardinals into the finals. The Cardinals were able to escape the semifinal even though they uncharacteristically committed three errors.

"For our team to win I thought we had to play error-free softball," Melewski said. "We made three errors and still came away with the win."

The district crown will not be the only one the Cardinals will wear this season either. Melewski's ladies also took home the All American Conference Red Tier title thanks to their 6-1 beating of Boardman on May 15. Gross pitched four innings striking out four to earn the victory. Fitzgerald worked the final three frames to pick up the save. Gomez hit a three-run homer in the third inning. Kovach hit a double, a single and knocked home two. Crissman clubbed a double, a single and scored two runs. Taylor Lampe, Mallory Vaclav and Baker all had two singles.

Stopping the Lady Spartans for the AAC championship was nice, but the loftier goal was met when Canfield clipped the Knights. Now, they'll need to be extra sharp to stop Willoughby South.

"We won't play any games (before the regional)," said Melewski over the weekend. "We'll practice Saturday, Monday and Tuesday then come ready to play on Wednesday."

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