Lady Leopards Edge Solon 2-1 to Advance to State Tournament – Softball
#4 Louisville 2, Solon 1
The #4 ranked Louisville Leopards Softball TEam edged the Solon Comets 2-1 in the DI Akron Regional Championship Game Saturday Afternoon at the University of Akron’s Lee Jackson Field. With the victory, Louisville advances to the state tournament for the first time in team history and ties the team record for wins in a season with a record of 25-4.
Sarah Cantley threw a complete game, gave up no earned runs on 2 hits, and struck out 10 to earn the most important win in Lady Leopards Softball history. Cantley surrendered a 1-out double to Kailee Grimm and Hallie Sutyak also reached on an error in the first inning. But the tide quickly turned as Louisville’s Senior Ace responded by fanning the next 7 Comets hitters and retiring the next 12 overall into the fifth inning.
The other half of the Leopards battery, catcher Kaycee Ollis, also made a huge play to help out her pitcher. Solon appeared to have snatched the momentum when Grimm doubled to the fence in left center. But Louisville snatched that momentum right back two pitches later when Ollis from her knees launched a perfect throw to Teagan Rice. Grimm had strayed too far off second and the Senior shortstop applied the tag to her helmet to terminate the scoring threat.
“I really think the biggest momentum changer was honestly Kaycee’s pickoff in the first inning.” Leopards Head Coach Andrea Arney said to reporters after the game. “I don’t think people realize what a huge play that was and it was just an incredible moment in the game that I think change the momentum to our side.”
While they seized back the momentum in the field, the Louisville offense was baffled by Solon Pitcher Allie Bican for most of the game. However, with patience at the plate the Leopards managed to push across a pair of runs in the third inning. Justina Sirohman fouled off a pair of pitches before blooping a single into center field for Louisville’s first hit of the contest. After an out, Lexi Zavarelle chopped a pitch to the shortstop who refrained from throwing with no play a either base.
Next, lead-off hitter Sydney McKeever walked on a full count following three consecutive foul balls to load the bases. Rice also worked the count full in her at-bat and Sirohman scored on a passed ball in the process. It was a bang-bang play at the plate on the toss back from the backstop, but Sirohman swiped her hand across the dish before the tag was applied to put the Leopards ahead 1-0. Rice walked anyways to reload the bases still with only one out.
Ollis ripped the next pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly to bring home Zavarelle from third for what proved to be a very important insurance run. Ollis’ sacrifice provided the only RBI of the game for either team as Louisville would ride their 2-0 advantage into the seventh inning.
The Leopards needed just three outs to punch their ticket to the state tournament for the first time in team history. The seventh inning started off as planned with one pitch leading to one out on a groundout to Lauren Bennett at third base to the first baseman Alex Fankhauser. Next, Cantley attempted and failed to solve the mystery that was the strike zone in issuing a five pitch walk to Bican. Out number two was recorded on the next pitch when Julia Gersey popped out to Rice at shortstop.
The hundreds of Louisville fans who made the trek up waited in anticipation for the final history making out. A 4-3 groundout to second base sent the Leopards from Districts in Massillon to Regionals in Akron. It would only be fitting that the same play would send Louisville three miles southwest to Firestone Stadium.
Juliana Kontul hit a 2-1 pitch on the ground to McKeever at second, but fate had other plans. The ball took a nasty hop off the dirt and ended up in no man’s land in right center field. With two outs, the error allowed courtesy runner Rachel Passerallo to score from first. This not only broke the shutout, but snapped a string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings of work by Cantley and the LHS defense.
“Our thing is together and that’s what we are. We just picked her right up.” McKeever’s teammate Bennett spoke of the play. “She set her glove down and we picked her right up, we picked up her glove. She just needed to take a second and she made the big play to end it.”
The ill-turn was short-lived as the same ball brought the opportunity for redemption on the very next pitch, which was in fact a ground ball to second base. This time it was scooped up by McKeever who emphatically threw to Fankhauser at first and the Lady Leopards had completed their journey to Firestone. Hugs and a mob scene ensued near the first baseline as the team celebrated the first Regional Championship for any girls sports in the history of Louisville Athletics.
“I don’t think there are a lot of words to describe it.” Coach Arney said of reaching the state tournament final four. “We’ve been working towards this, not only this year but since I’ve become the Coach this has been our goal and it’s happened, and we’re here, and they deserve it more than anything. This is one of the most special teams I’ve ever been a part of playing or coaching.”
UP NEXT: The Louisville Leopards Softball Team will next take on the #8 ranked Elyria Pioneers in the DI State Semifinals on Friday, May 31. First pitch form Akron Firestone Stadium is set for 12:30 PM for a chance to play in the State Title game.
OHSAA Division I Softball Regional Championship Scores
#4 Louisville 2, Solon 1
#8 Elyria 3, #8 Perrysburg 0
#3 Westerville Central 3, #1 Mount Vernon 2
#2 Lakota East 2, #10 Lakota West 1
VARSITY SOFTBALL BOX SCORE
LEOPARDS 2, COMETS 1
SOLON COMETS SOFTBALL VARSITY BATTING STATS
SOLON COMETS SOFTBALL VARSITY PITCHING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS SOFTBALL VARSITY BATTING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS SOFTBALL VARSITY PITCHING STATS
Records: Louisville 25-4