Softball | Aurora claims share of Suburban League championship, wins tourney opener

·5 min read
Aurora shortstop Maddie Zdanowicz makes a play in a recent game.
Aurora shortstop Maddie Zdanowicz makes a play in a recent game.

Senior leadership, strong pitching and execution prevailed for Aurora’s softball team in a convincing 7-1 home victory in a Division II sectional championship clash over Lake County Perry Thursday evening.

With the win, seventh-seeded Aurora (15-7) advanced to the district semifinals to play fifth-seed Canfield Tuesday at the Jefferson Little League Complex.

If the Greenmen beat Canfield (15-5), Aurora would advance to Thursday’s district championship contest at 5 p.m. in Jefferson.

Canfield, which entered the game with an eight-game winning streak, is no stranger to Aurora as the two clubs squared off earlier this season in a non-league test and Canfield won 5-2 on their own field.

“They are solid,” said Aurora head coach Sam Petrash. “I have known Joe Angelo [the Cardinals’ veteran skipper] for quite some time and he does a fantastic job. They have our respect.”

This postseason Petrash will lean on his club’s senior leadership, which was evident in the victory over Perry (16-8), a program with a rich tradition.

“The team genuinely likes each other and our three seniors are all four-year varsity players,” said Petrash. “They know what this is about. They do not panic. Their approach trickles down to the rest of the players and they believe in each other.”

Those battle-tested seniors are pitcher-first baseman Mackenzie Krafcik, third baseman Kayla Ring, and centerfielder Ava Ryncarz.

It was Krafcik, the Bowling Green University commit, who enabled Aurora to shut down a solid Perry attack.

Set up by her off-speed offerings, Krafcik was pretty dominant against the Pirate hitters as she allowed just three hits and one earned run in seven innings of work. She struck out 10 batters and walked three.

“All of Mackenzie’s pitches were working well,” said Petrash. “Everything works well when she commands her off-speed pitches.”

Aurora vaulted to a 2-0 lead in the second inning as small ball played a huge role on offense.

Exciting freshman Sophie Retton led off with a double and then scored when Ring put down a perfect bunt to third base, which resulted in an overthrow.

Ring reached third base and then scored on another bunt by sophomore Madeline Dalessandro.

“McKennah Metzger, Sophie [Retton] and Sophie Petrash each had two hits and Dalessandro got a clutch hit that scored two, along with the sacrifice bunt that pushed another run across,” said Sam Petrash.

“Ring got a huge bunt down and collected the other hit along with scoring three runs,” added Petrash. “Her baserunning was outstanding.”

Those two runs came after Krafcik got a huge swinging strike three to halt a scoring opportunity with two runners on in the top half of the second frame. She also struck out the side in the third inning.

After Aurora plated a run in both the third and fourth innings to take a 4-0 lead, Perry finally got on the board in the top of the fifth with an RBI single by Maddie Infalvi, who is one of the area’s top hitters with an average over .600.

In the fifth inning, Metzger, a talented sophomore, hit a one-out double and then Retton singled, followed by a huge RBI single by Ring and then Dalessandro drove in her second and third runs with a single.

Aurora’s week also included a crazy league finish that saw the Greenmen win four total games and capture three league wins to earn a share of the Suburban League American Conference title with Tallmadge at 11-3.

“We needed to win our last three conference games to earn a Suburban League co-champ honor with Tallmadge,” said Petrash.

Aurora beat Revere 5-1 to start out on Monday, followed by a 10-0 home win over Barberton the next day, and a 12-4 road win at Barberton on Friday.

Petrash was elated with his club and also had praise for his coaching staff of Sarah Ross, Curtis Barker, and Gregg Unverferth. He also conveyed the coaches’ appreciation as well.

“I want to comment on how proud our coaching staff is of this team,” Petrash said. “We got off to a slow start [1-2] and the weather did not allow us to gain much consistency, but the players controlled what they could and persevered. It’s hard to win consistently in this league.”

“Running off 10 wins against one loss since our 1-2 start is quite an accomplishment,” he added.

In the clinching win at Barberton, Ryncarz exploded with a 4-for-5 effort at the plate with a home run, four runs scored and two RBIs. Retton kept her bat hot as she collected two hits and three RBIs. Madison Zdanowicz, Maggie McVicker and Dalessandro each had two hits with Dalessandro collecting two RBIs.

Ring, Krafcik, and Petrash collected the other hits and knocked in a run apiece.

In the circle, Metzger went the distance, giving up five hits and two earned runs, walking none and striking out 12.

McVicker’s strength and power propelled Aurora past the Magics in the first game as she was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs. Dalessandro, Avery Qualters, Retton, and Zdanowicz each collected hits with Qualters and Petrash having two RBIs each.

Julia Miller and McVicker scored twice while Metzger went the distance with a two-hit shutout. She struck out 11.

“McKennah [Metzger] did a great job spotting her pitches and keeping Barberton off-balance,” said Petrash.

Retton was the hitting star in the win over Revere while Krafcik fired a complete-game six-hitter.

Knocking in four runs, Retton went 3-for-4 with a home run. Metzger, who also is getting interest from college coaches, homered and doubled while Petrash collected the other hit and scored a run. Krafcik fanned 10.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Aurora Greenmen softball claim Suburban League co-championship