Kirtland’s young softball team came of age in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to Canfield South Range at Akron Firestone Stadium.
It took 10 innings for the Raiders, the 2016 Division III state runners-up and a perennial powerhouse, to finally put two runs on the board against the Hornets.
“This was more than a learning tool, this was Kirtland softball at its finest,” said Kirtland coach Jamie Smrdel. “This is a game that we found the voice we were looking for. From the players on the field, players up to bat, and players on the bench, we felt electricity tonight. It’s a tough loss, but tonight South Range beat a great team.”
Kirtland pitcher Emily Ungrady was masterful throughout the extra-inning affair.
She allowed two earned runs and struck out 10 while facing just 39 batters in the game.
“Simply put, Ungrady will never cease to amaze us,” Kamensky said. “She’s a stud. She works hard and will be the one to reckon with for any team we face. She sets the tone and leads with her focus, drive, performance, and love for the game. The girl is something special.”
After a one-out single in the top of the first, Elizabeth Vernon recorded 6-3 double play to energize the Kirtland defense.
The Hornets turned two double plays in the game.
“Vernon was one heck of a defender tonight,” Kamensky said. “Right off the bat in the first inning, she set the tone. She fielded the ball moving toward second and took control. She stepped on second and fired it to first. That type of momentous play set us up for the rest of the game. It’s something you don’t see every day and for it to be executed perfectly, it was magical to watch.”
South Range pitcher Bree Kohler was just as dominant as Ungrady in the circle.
She retired the first 13 Hornet batters she faced before Haleigh Getchell singled to break up the perfect game.
Katie McCollister singled in the sixth but that was all the damage the Hornets would do in regulation. Ungrady added a two-out single in the ninth but the Hornets couldn’t move her around the bases.
Ungrady struck out the first batter she faced in the 10th but gave up a single and a walk to put runners at first and second. The Raiders used a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position and Kohler hit a 1-1 pitch into left-center to clear the bases.
“At the end of the game in our huddle, one of the ladies from the (Akron) Racers came over and said with the most sincerity, ‘Ladies, you played one of the best games I have ever witnessed.’ I had the biggest smile on my face,” Kamensky said. “When she walked away, I told the girls that our goal is to have playoff mentality every game we play. Tonight we witnessed that. We reiterated to them that if we play like we did tonight we can compete with the best of the best. I have never seen a game this well-played in my coaching career. This was just a great game. I am beyond proud of what our girls did tonight and I look forward to building off this moving forward.”
Kirtland (3-1) travels to Fairport Harding on Friday.