Weekly Feature

2017-05-18 / Sports

Cleve Hill softball closes season on strong note

No-hitter, four shutouts among week’s five victories

Defending Class C-1 champion Cleveland Hill’s softball team will enter the postseason as the top-seeded favorite following a strong showing in last week’s final six games that saw the Lady Eagles outscore their opponents a combined 70-6.

The Lady Eagles earned four of their five victories via shutout, including a 22-0 triumph over Holland on May 9 to start their stretch run. Everyone on the squad scored at least one run, with the Lady Eagles posting four runs in the first inning and six more in the second to take a commanding early lead.

Cleveland Hill put any thought of a Holland comeback out of mind with its nine-run third inning that was highlighted by Emily McIntosh’s three-run home run. McIntosh, who also had a double and finished with four RBIs, scored four runs on the day, as did Kathryn Skorka.

Brooke Seifert chipped in with a two-run double for the victors, while Taylor Betz’s mastery in the pitcher’s circle continued by way of her three-hitter with 16 strikeouts.


Cleveland Hill pitcher Taylor Betz continued to mow down opponents during the Lady Eagles’ final week of league play. Betz, shown here serving up an offering to an awaiting Tonawanda batter during the Lady Eagles’ 5-1 conquest Friday, tossed four shutouts — including a no-hitter in the second game of the team’s doubleheader with Lackawanna on Thursday — during the Lady Eagles’ five-win week. 
Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Cleveland Hill pitcher Taylor Betz continued to mow down opponents during the Lady Eagles’ final week of league play. Betz, shown here serving up an offering to an awaiting Tonawanda batter during the Lady Eagles’ 5-1 conquest Friday, tossed four shutouts — including a no-hitter in the second game of the team’s doubleheader with Lackawanna on Thursday — during the Lady Eagles’ five-win week. Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com “A lot of our scoring actually came off singles that weren’t necessarily big hits, but they just found the gaps,” coach Justin Ditzel said. “We actually hadn’t played in a long time before that day because of the weather, so I was proud of the girls for playing like we were supposed to play. We’ve been focused lately on scoring early to put the pressure on the other team to play catch up, whether we’re home or away. When we can do that, like we did against Holland, it takes a lot of pressure off the defense.”

Eden threw a monkey wrench into the works the next afternoon, however, handing the Lady Eagles just their second loss of the year, 5-1, to prevent Cleveland Hill from securing a share of the regular-season ECIC IV title.

Eden jumped out to a 3-0 after the second inning, taking advantage of some errors in the field, before pushing its lead to 4-1 in the fourth. Cleveland Hill tried to mount a comeback in the seventh after Elisabeth LaCourse led the frame off with a single to bring the top of the order back to the plate, but the Lady Raiders recorded three straight outs to lock down the decision.

Mora Sullivan’s double in the fourth drove in Allison McIntosh for Cleveland Hill’s only run of the game. Sullivan finished with two of Cleveland Hill’s hits on the day.

“We were really pumped up going into the game, which probably added to the sting of having that shot at sharing the division title taken away from us,” Ditzel said. “Eden’s good — their pitcher is legit as an eighth-grader, and we just weren’t able to put enough hits together — but we’ve got to find ways to win those kinds of tight games against good teams.”

Cleveland Hill bounced back by shutting out crosstown rival JFK in both games of Thursday’s doubleheader, 14-0 and 18-0. Betz and Seifert each hit two-run singles as part of Cleveland Hill’s six-run first inning to get the Lady Eagles off to a solid start, while five more runs in the second inning all but put the game away.

Cervino finished the first game 3-for-4 at the plate with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored, while Betz — who tossed a three-hitter with 11 strikeouts — scored four times. Betz came back to toss her second no-hitter of the season in the second game, striking out 11 batters again. This time, Cleveland Hill scored seven runs in the first and added nine more in the fifth to cruise to the lopsided decision.

Sullivan was flawless at the plate in the second game, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs. Skorka smashed a triple and drove in two runs, while Catalino added a double and two RBIs. Cervino chipped in with two doubles, an RBI and three runs, while Allison McIntosh had two singles, two RBIs and two walks.

“Doubleheaders are nice in one respect because you get two games in, which is a huge thing given the way the weather was for most of the season, but you have the potential to fall into the trap of taking a team lightly after winning the first game as handily as we did,” Ditzel said. “The bottom of our lineup came up pretty big for us in the first game, just like they have actually all season long.

“We just wanted to do all we could to improve our sectional seeding, and even though we didn’t know much about this year’s group at JFK other than they had new coaches, it doesn’t matter what the records are anytime you play them. You want to beat JFK anytime you see them on your schedule.”

Cleveland Hill continued to roll Friday when it topped Tonawanda on the road, 5-1. The Lady Eagles’ defense came up big behind Betz, who struck out eight and allowed just two hits, in part because her fielders were sharp any time the Lady Warriors made significant contact with the ball.

Cleveland Hill, meanwhile, took a 3-1 lead after the second inning before adding runs in the third and fourth innings on run-scoring singles by Sullivan and Allison McIntosh, respectively. Allison McIntosh also had a two-run double in the second inning, while Emily McIntosh drove in the Lady Eagles’ first run on her fielder’s choice in the first inning.

“Tonawanda was a tight game for sure,” Ditzel said. “The first time we played them it was close through the fifth inning, and they’ve been a consistently good hitting team over the years. I’m just glad we were in a close game to be reminded of what it feels like with the playoffs just around the corner. It served as a good test for us, and I was proud of the way the girls responded.”

Cleveland Hill then closed out the regular season in shutout fashion Saturday by way of its 10-0 victory over Springville. Betz tossed a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts to do her part, while Seifert sparked the Lady Eagles at the plate by driving in three runs, including both runs in the fifth inning with her single.

Cleveland Hill also scored three runs in both the first and sixth innings to put the game away. Emily McIntosh’s single in the sixth pushed two of those runs across.

Cleveland Hill finished the year 10-2 in both ECIC IV and overall, which was good for second place in the division and a first-round bye for the playoffs. The Lady Eagles will begin the defense of their sectional title this afternoon by hosting eighth-seeded Falconer, with the winner advancing to Tuesday’s semifinal to face the winner of the quarterfinal between fourth-seeded Chautauqua Lake and fifth-seeded Middle Early College.

“At the beginning of the year, I said how I was looking forward to our lineup being the one to win games for us, and while Taylor has obviously done a great job for us again in the pitcher’s circle this year, our bats have definitely been producing more than they did last year — and I’m looking for that to continue now that the playoffs are here,” Ditzel said. “I’m hoping we continue to play hard at the plate and in field, and have our bats make things a lot less stressful during what will hopefully be a long playoff run.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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