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Lady Falcons split wins with Howland Tigers

Prepare for state tournament, where seventh-seeded Fitch battles 10th-seeded Kenston

May 4, 2017
By Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Nothing epitomizes just how up and down this season has gone for the Austintown Fitch High School softball team than its two games last week versus Howland.

The Falcons began the week with one win inside the vicious All-American Conference Red Tier, but a couple of wins over equally struggling Howland could at least make the kids feel good with the Division I tournament quickly approaching.

The Lady Falcons played one of their most complete games of the season April 24 in the first match with Howland on the road.

A four-run top of the first by Fitch and a five-run fourth propelled the Falcons to an easy 11-2 victory.

Leading Fitch's 13-hit attack was senior McKenzie Luknis, who swatted a grand slam and had six RBIs. Fellow seniors Julia McMenamin and Maddie Everhart also had RBIs for the victors.

Sophomores Lainie Simons and Kayla Kelty each had three hits. One of Simons' safeties was a double.

Sensational sophomore starting pitcher Ashley Fuller was the beneficiary of all of that offense. Fuller dominated the Lady Tigers in her complete game, giving up just two runs and six hits. She also struck out six Howland hitters.

One would think that the momentum Fitch captured, especially away from home, would mean a lot the following day, when Howland came to Austintown.

But judging by the final score, it meant nothing at all. The Tigers scored in each of the first six innings April 25 to turn things around on the Falcons from the previous day and scored 11 runs of their own in an 11-6 triumph.

Fuller couldn't fool the Tigers' hitters two days in a row and was roughed up. She was relieved by freshman Kaitlyn Evanko in the fifth. Six errors by the Falcons didn't help their cause either.

Luknis was the offensive star again with four hits and two ribbies. Kelty had a double, a single and an RBI. Simons smacked an RBI double.

The other game Fitch played last week was one with conference-undefeated Canfield, which trounced the Falcons, 11-1.

Simons, Fuller and Luknis all reached base in the first inning for Fitch and, when an errant throw came in from Canfield's outfield, the Falcons took a 1-0 lead.

Eleven unanswered runs by the Lady Cardinals, however, put an end to any dreams of a Fitch upset.

Kovach came away from the game with two more hits.

Scoring 11 runs to start the week and then allowing both opponents to match that total the rest of the week is proof of just how inexperienced this Fitch bunch is. Despite that, head coach Steve Ward believes his group has been playing a lot better than they were at the beginning of April.

"We're still a young team," Ward said. "We've been improving lately."

Hopefully for Ward, that better play continues into the Solon District of the tournament. The seventh-seeded Falcons will host 10th-seeded Kenston on May 9. A win in that game will push the Falcons into battle with No. 2 seed Aurora.

It would be natural, though, for the Falcons to have one eye on the other half of the bracket. That's where top-seed Canfield is resting, and Ward and his Falcon ladies would love a crack at getting some revenge from the mighty Cardinals.

But before tournament play, the local ladies had to battle Warren G. Harding Tuesday and Wednesday, winning the first game of the home-and-home doubleheader, 10-0.

After the Lady Falcons had a second chance to take down the Raiders, they're scheduled to play Brecksville-Broadview Heights 5 p.m. Friday.



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