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Lady Cards lose two games and their ace pitcher

April 3, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

It has been a difficult start to the 2019 season for the Canfield softball team.

Not only has some uneven play in the field left the Lady Cardinals with an opening 2-2 record, but they also lost arguably their best player. Junior flamethrower KaiLi Gross unexplainably left the Canfield program and enrolled at archrival Poland. Gross will only be allowed to play in the Bulldogs' first 13 games and not be eligible to pitch in the postseason. She will also be forced to pay an unknown amount of tuition since Poland is not an open enrollment school district. More on Gross' departure later, but there was some good news to report from the Cardinals' first week of action.

Canfield clipped conference foe Boardman 11-9 and outlasted Lakeview 10-8 for its first two wins of the spring. The opening contest against the Trumbull County Bulldogs on March 23 was a comeback effort. The Cardinals trailed 7-0 after two innings then started their revival with four runs in the home half of the second. After scoring four runs at that point, Canfield was able to score six more over the final three frames to pull out its first win. Leading Canfield's 12-hit barrage was senior slugger Kalin Kovach who clubbed a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave her gang the final 10-8 margin. Senior Mary Gomez grabbed a double and a single and scored two runs. Junior Madi Kelly also doubled and singled, scored two runs and knocked home two runs. Sophomore sensation Sarah Ferraro had two singles and an RBI.

Brook Crissman, who may become the ace in Gross' absence, pitched two innings and picked up the pitching victory. Kelly came in relief to work five solid stanzas. She gave up only 1 run and struck out five.

The Cardinals needed another comeback effort in their only other win last week at Boardman on March 25. Down 7-1 and seemingly out of the contest, the Cardinals exploded for five runs in the top of the fourth and two each in the fifth and sixth. A single run in the seventh gave them their two-run triumph. Kovach had another homer. Crissman cracked two hits and collected two ribbies. Ferraro had a pair of safeties and an RBI. Senior Amber Rose went for a double, a single and an RBI. Kelly came away with the win working four innings giving up four hits and fanning two Lady Spartans. Canfield head coach Ray Melewski was relieved that his girls were able to come out on top after starting so slowly.

"Our offense has brought us back in two games," Melewski said. "We had some key hitting from Kalin Kovach, Brooke Crissman and Sarah Ferraro."

One day after defeating the Spartans, Melewski's kids were clobbered by Boardman 18-7. Sophomore second baseman Lauren Fitzgerald had a homerun in that victory. Canfield also was canned by Walsh Jesuit 19-5 last Friday afternoon. Crissman, Kovach and Ferraro all had two hit games with Crissman scoring two runs. As well as his group played in the first battle with Boardman and in the game against Lakeview, Melewski knew they were equally horrendous in the two setbacks.

"It's been a roller coaster ride so far," said the veteran coach. "We have played bad and we have played good. We need to put some consistency in our playing. We put ourselves behind early in games and have had to play catchup."

The Redbirds tried to catchup on some conference wins against Howland earlier this week. Red Tier tilts with Ashtabula Lakeside will take place this Monday at home and Tuesday in Ashtabula. After splitting with the Spartans, Canfield's coach realizes what needs to be done to stay afloat in the AAC.

"We need to put it together and start playing well the entire game," said Melewski. "We have a lot of games to play."

Canfield will be playing those games without the one person the coaching staff thought it could count on all year. Not to take anything away from Crissman, Kelly and Fitzgerald, Canfield's pitching rotation was downright filthy with All Conference 1st teamer Gross leading the pack. To say her transfer is the "elephant in the room" would be an understatement.

"I'd rather not comment," typed Melewski in a text when asked about Gross' decision to leave. He didn't need an angry face emoji to punctuate his feelings.



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