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AKRON -- After winning the Division I state title in 2016, Walsh Jesuit softball knew it probably had a target on its back heading into this year's postseason.
In its Division I regional semifinal game with Canfield May 24, however, Walsh has to deal with two determined opponents: The Cardinals and Mother Nature.
Constant rain made for sloppy play early and forced a 35-minute rain delay during the contest. However, the senior-heavy Warriors were able to power through.
Walsh scored an 8-0 win over Canfield at the University of Akron's Lee Jackson Field. With the win, the Warriors (20-6) advanced to the Division I regional final May 24 at Akron. Results of the regional final were not available at press time.
Walsh coach Bill Davis praised his team's maturity in dealing with the adverse conditions, noting the seven seniors in his lineup.
"At this point of the season, I'm just enjoying them," Davis. "We get to play another game together. As far as hitting, we just go."
Davis noted the weather seemed to have its most adverse effect on senior pitcher Madi McCrady.
McCrady had a bit of a weird game. She threw a complete game shutout to improve to 17-3 on the season, allowing only three Canfield hits and striking out nine Cardinals.
On the other hand, McCrady walked nine batters and needed 143 pitches to get through the contest.
"That's almost two games [worth of pitches]," McCrady said. "I was having a difficult day with my arm. The rain was making it a bit hard to grip.
"Luckily, I was able to get my bat going, so I could be there for the team," she added. "Sometimes, you get both working well and some days it's either or. Today, it was the bat that worked."
"It was good to show Madi that we had her back with the bats," Davis said.
Indeed, McCrady and the Warriors were able to take control of the contest early on offense.
Second baseman Emma Lawson led off the bottom of the first with a triple and catcher Kristen Kurt walked. McCrady then hit an RBI infield single to make it 1-0.
After left fielder Angie Bobish walked, designated player Maris Cartellone smacked a two-run single off the second baseman's glove, making it 3-0 after one inning.
Canfield had its chances, as the Cardinals had base runners in every inning. However, none of Canfield's hits went for extra bases and the Cardinals stranded 12 runners on base.
By contrast, Walsh got a trio of hits that went to the fence at Lee Jackson Field.
One of these was a lead-off double by left fielder Angie Bobish in the top of the third inning, which was followed by a single from third baseman Allie Drake.
It was at that point when the rain picked up in Akron, forcing the game to be delayed for 35 minutes.
When play resumed, Cattellone got her third RBI of the day, as she grounded out to second to score Bobish and make it 4-0 after three innings.
Canfield starting pitcher Bridget Durkin lasted four innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits. Durkin was knocked out of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when Bobish smacked a line drive off her left leg.
Kaili Gross took over on the mound, but gave up a single to Drake and a walk to center fielder Julia Mullins to load the bases.
While Walsh may be a senior-heavy squad, it was freshman shortstop Julia Bentley who smacked the biggest hit of the game.
Bentley smacked a line drive over the center fielder's head for a three-run triple. She then scored when Canfield's attempt to throw out Bentley at third base landed in the Cardinals' dugout.
"My freshman came through with a really big hit," Davis said.
Bentley finished with a triple and single in the game, while McCrady put up three singles. Bobish went 2-of-3 with a walk, a double, a single and two runs scored.
Canfield attempted to break up the shutout in the top of the seventh inning when center fielder Ally Sammarco walked and shortstop Jill Baker singled to lead it off. However, McCrady got a pop out, a ground out and then struck out Gross to preserve the shutout.