AVON LAKE – The Westlake Demons’ bats were firing from the start of Monday’s Sectional semi-final game at Avon Lake High School. Three hits in the top of the first drove in three of their four runs in the inning.
The offense didn’t stop there as Westlake (10-14), the 10th seed in the Avon Lake district, added seven more runs and never trailed en route to an 11-4 win.
Strong pitching and clean defense were also key for the Demons Monday night. Westlake committed just one error compared to four for Avon Lake, and its outfield did not drop a single ball hit to them. Starter Sydney Schons pitched a complete game, striking out and walking two.
“It’s nice to jump out to an early lead as a visitor,” Westlake head coach Tom Shiban said. “Our defense played so well. They tracked down every ball in the outfield, I don’t know how many put outs we had there.”
Shiban said the turning point occurred in the bottom of the fifth when Avon Lake had two on with two out and the Shoregals trailing 7-4. Pitcher Kara Kovachick hit a ball to deep centerfield where Ashley Butcher, running away from home plate, leapt to make the final out of the inning, saving two runs.
In the circle, Schons said when he saw her offense go up 4-0 in the top of the first, she felt less pressure to make perfect pitches.
“My nerves went down so much,” Schons said. “It was so nice to be able to come in knowing that we had a lead on them and that we could just take it from there. With our defense, when you let (Avon Lake) hit it and (the defense) just takes over and get the outs, it’s really nice to be able to rely on our team like that.”
Pacing the Demons were second baseman Charlotte Button, going a perfect 4-4 with three runs, an RBI and a steal; catcher Paige Bowman (3-5, 2 2B, 4 RBIs, 3 R) and designated hitter Jessica Bernath (3-4, 2 RBIs).
Seventh-seeded Avon Lake (11-10) wasn’t without its opportunities, though. After going down 1-2-3-4 in the first two innings, the Shoregals offense came to life in the third and fourth.
With two outs in the third, first baseman Gwyn Lester scored Mallory McClellan to bring Avon Lake within three, 4-1. After the Demons had a two-out rally of their own adding on three more to bring the score to 7-1, the Shoregals cut the deficit in the fourth, once again with all runs coming with two outs.
A single and a walk had runners on first and second for McClellan, who then doubled to center, scoring Kovachick. Centerfielder Elizabeth Thieken singled, scoring second baseman Allison Peachman and advancing McClellan to third, who scored on the same play on an error, bringing Avon Lake within 7-4.
That was the closest the Shoregals would get, though, as Westlake scored three more in the top of the sixth, and one in the top of the seventh.
Despite the loss, Avon Lake head coach Jana Peachman said this game showed her team’s resiliency even though they have a younger roster.
“I didn’t think we were horrible at the plate tonight,” Peachman said. “We adjusted from the first couple innings and we did get the hits, we just hit right to the outfielders. (Westlake) seemed to be able to just get them in the gaps when they needed to count.”
Leading Avon Lake were McClellan (3-4, 3 R, RBI, 2B), Thieken (2-3, RBI, R) and Lester (2-4, 2 RBIs).
Despite being knocked out of the State tournament, the Shoregals still have softball to play. Due to rainouts and needing to play the remainder of their conference slate, they have three Southwestern Conference games left, the first of which comes at 5 p.m. Thursday against Olmsted Falls at home a before traveling to Amherst to play at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“I told (our team) that, ‘You know what, let’s go out – it’d be great to knock off one of the top teams in our conference for the rest of the week,” Jana Peachman said.
The win moves Westlake into the Sectional final against Elyria that’s set to take place at 5 tonight at Elyria High School.
“We have to have a good mindset like we did today,” Schons said of facing the second-seeded Pioneers. “We have to come in ready to play, our warmups have to be really sharp, we have to show them that we’re ready to come to play. Do our best, clean D, good offense, get ahead on them first inning just like we did today.”
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