Massillon, OH- In weather that could not have been scripted any better if it was written in Hollywood, the Akron Hoban Knights and North Canton Hoover Vikings went toe-to-toe in Sectional Softball action Monday night in Massillon. Under cloudless skies and mid-70s temperatures, the softball foes took the diamond in a highly contested bout. It was Akron Hoban striking first, with Nylah Durham coming around to score on a Kennedy Bray 2-out double in the bottom of the 1st inning.
North Canton Hoover loaded the bases in the top of the 2nd inning following two walks and a Makayla Ball double. With no outs and the bags occupied, Hoban pitcher Faith Porter was staring down a potential big inning by the Vikings. Following an Ella Letosky RBI single, Porter was able to send Makayla Bower and Lauren Moore packing on strikes and get lead-off hitter Sienna Koosh to pop out to the shortstop to limit the Hoover damage. In the bottom of the 3rd, Porter was again faced with a bases-loaded situation. This time, the Vikings had loaded them up with one out in the inning. The Knights were able to escape unscathed this frame thanks to a great, right place right time, play by 3rd baseman Julia Scaglione. Scaglione snagged a frozen rope down the 3rd baseline off the bat of Summer McCaw, when she corralled the screamer, she was strategically standing on 3rd base, resulting in an unassisted double play to end the inning and keeping the score deadlocked at 1.
North Canton Hoover with the bases loaded in the 2nd inning.
Ella Letosky ran into trouble of her own in the bottom of the 3rd inning when the Knights got a rally of their own started on a passed ball on a strikeout that Taylor Gerring was able to beat out and start a rally with 1 out. Next up was Sidney Conti, who smacked a double to center field, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with Kennedy Bray stepping into the box. Bray again came through in the clutch, this time sending a double to the left-center gap, plating Gerring and Conti, and regaining the Hoban lead 3-1.
Following Bray's second double in as many at-bats, Hoover Head Coach Jerry Goodpasture opted to go with southpaw Summer McCaw in relief. McCaw answered with back-to-back strikeouts to stop the bleeding and keep the Vikings in striking distance.
Kennedy Bray makes contact on an Ella Letosky offering.
After two frames that saw Hoover load the bases, Faith Porter finally settled in with her team in the lead. In the 4th and 5th frames, Porter allowed only 1 hit, a single to Makayla Bower with 1 out in the 4th. Bower was stranded at 1st and the Vikings were set down in order in the 5th inning.
Faith Porter set to release a pitch.
Chances were dwindling for North Canton despite Summer McCaw coming in and slamming the door on the Knight's early offensive success. Sadie Carroll led off the 6th with a single to attempt to kickstart the sputtering bats of the Vikings. Following a McCaw strike-out, Ella Letosky grounded one back to the mound. Porter turned to look and Carroll had got a good jump on the batted ball and was near second, so Porter took the sure out tossing a strike over to 1st base to retire Letosky. Next up was Makayla Bower, with only 4 outs in between Hoban and advancement in the tournament. Bower turned on a Porter offering and sent it sailing over the fence in left-center to tie the game at 3 in the 6th inning.
The Knights went down in order in the 6th and 7th, and the Vikings only managed to reach on an error in the 7th, so off to extra innings we went, and with a picture-perfect evening, no one uttered a complaint.
In the bottom of the 8th, with a chance to walk off and advance, Hoban's best hitter on the evening was stepping to the plate with runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out. Kennedy Bray dug in and sent a shot to center field. Rushing in to make the catch was Ella Letosky, who transitioned to center when McCaw took over on the mound. What could have been a rather routine line out to center turned from bad to worse for the Knights in a split second. Both runners had moved to advance on contact, leading to an 8-4-3 triple play to end the inning and their best chance to that point to get anything going offensively against McCaw.
Both teams traded quiet 9th innings and to the 10th the game would go. Hoover had their 3-4-5 hitters due up, and Hoban turned to Faith Porter for her 10th inning of work on the evening. While Porter was able to get Delaney Shannon and Makayla Ball to pop out on the infield, with 2 outs, it was Sadie Carroll once again coming through for the Vikings. This time, it was a double to get the 2 out rally attempt started. Summer McCaw followed and worked a walk as Porter began to show fatigue at the center of the diamond. Next up was Makayla Bower who hit a 2-run single, breaking the tie and giving Hoover an insurance run in the process. Porter was able to escape further damage by striking out Lauren Moore to keep the score 5-3.
Summer McCaw in her wind-up.
Summer McCaw trotted back to the center of the diamond looking to put the finishing touches on a marvelous performance that started with a runner on second and 1 out in the bottom of the third. After striking out Mackenzi Wood to start the 10th, Lacie Quarels sent a double to the right-center gap, giving the Knights a glimmer of hope. Much like the sun setting beyond the trees as the game neared 3 hours of play, McCaw was quick to extinguish that glimmer, getting Nylah Durham to pop out to the catcher and striking out Taylor Gerring to end the game.
North Canton Hoover starts the celebration following the last out in the bottom of the 10th following their 5-3 victory.
North Canton Hoover moves on to face off with Federal League rival Massillon Jackson on Wednesday evening.