Warriors rally past Poland, Cardinal Mooney next
ALLIANCE–A battle-tested West Branch softball team is prepared for any task as the Warriors fought back from an early two run deficit to beat Poland 4-3 in a Division II district semifinal Thursday at Alliance High School.
“Games during the regular season made us a well-rounded team for what’s to come and to know what to expect,” West Branch junior Delaney Rito said.
West Branch is 22-3 on the season and advance to the Division II district title game against Youngstown Cardinal Mooney at 5 p.m. today at Alliance High School.
Poland ends the season with a 17-7 mark.
The Warriors’ three losses during the regular season came against Louisville (22-2), which fell in a Division I district final to Perry on Thursday, followed by two losses to top-ranked Warren Champion (25-0) in a doubleheader. Champion has advanced to the Division III regionals on its way towards defending its 2017 Div. III state championship.
“Going through those hardships have prepared us for these tougher teams,” Rito said. “The competition was good for us during the regular season.”
West Branch coach Sis Woods said that challenge was something the Warriors welcomed in the 2018 season.
“Our league is very good with Louisville and Marlington,” Woods said. “We played tougher teams for these situations. We had Hoover and Perry on the schedule but they both got snowed out. We had a bad first game but were still hitting with Champion (7-5) but the second game was just a great game between two good teams (3-2).”
The Warriors’ situation on the day was playing from behind after Poland scored two runs in the top of the first inning.
The Bulldogs got a run off a Sarah Bocceri RBI single and Bocceri scored the second run on a fielders choice.
“We’ve been in that situation plenty of times this season and even in practice we work on being down in game situations,” Rito said. “We have this great sense of hope that the whole team feels it and we know that we can come out with the win if we just believe.”
West Branch’s sense of hope came out in the bottom of the third inning when Rito’s two-run single tied the game at 2-2 and took the lead after Peyton Alazaus’ RBI double.
“I felt great after that hit and we always say hitting is contagious,” Rito said. “I was ready to get up to hit again and I had the mindset that I was going to get a hit.”
The Warriors made a pitching change in the top of the fourth inning when Kelsey Byers came in for starting pitcher Kylie Coffelt.
“It was an instinct,” Woods said. “They were timing up Kylie pretty well and they are a great hitting team so I felt the change would help us out.”
An insurance run that turned out to be crucial for West Branch came in the bottom of the sixth inning after a Hannah Sprague sacrifice fly scored Alazaus.
“We were able to manufacture a run late which would turn out to be huge,” Woods said. “It was two good teams out their today and it was a nail biter.”
Poland managed to score a run in the bottom of the seventh inning but the defense of Warriors turned a double play at first and third to give the team a return trip to the district finals.
¯West Branch lost to Marlington 5-4 in the district final a year ago and players still have memories of that loss.
“We all remember that feeling,” Rito said. “We should’ve went farther last year and we know what we have to do this year.”
¯In the other Division II district semifinal Mooney beat Ursuline 5-4. The Cardinals fell behind 4-1 but fought back to win the game after CJ Sapp drove in the go-ahead run for the Cardinals.
“This is their first year back in Division II and I know they are both quality programs,” Woods said.
WB: Kylie Coffelt, wp (3IP, 1BB, 2ER), Kelsey Byers (4IP, 6K, 1ER) and Sam Morris
P: Monica Kurjan, lp (6IP, 1K) and Camryn Lattonzio