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Poland girls win two games and add an ace

April 3, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

A pair of wins over Jefferson has jumped started the season for the Poland softball team.

The Lady Bulldogs bulldozed the Lady Falcons 7-1 and 26-1 on back to back days last week to begin the new campaign 2-0. Those wins also gave the Bulldogs their first two in the newly formed Northeast 8 Conference.

While the second end of the twin bill with Jefferson was a total blowout, Poland's opening season triumph on March 27 wasn't as simple as the final score indicated. The Bulldogs had to score in three consecutive innings late in the game to snap a 1-1 tie against a pitcher that has had their number in the past.

"It was a great win, but it wasn't as easy as it looked," said Poland head coach Jim Serich last weekend. "We beat (Jefferson's) best pitcher that gave us trouble last year."

Leading the Bulldogs' offense was senior Lauren Sienkiewicz who had a triple and a double and two RBI's. Sophomore Cami Lattanzio laced two hits and knocked in a run. Junior Brooke Bobbey was good for a triple. Poland's offense didn't need to explode late in the game thanks to the way things were going from the pitching circle. It was the tremendous pitching of senior starter Ashely Wire that had the coach gushing.

"Ashley Wire was on," said Serich. "She threw a great game."

Wire was so great because she only allowed three hits and struck out four Falcons in her complete game. She had the Jefferson hitters handcuffed all afternoon. Serich theorizes that with Wire's mastery his club has a chance to run the table in the infant conference just like many of Poland's other athletic outfits did in year one.

"Anytime we get good performances in the pitching circle we'll be alright," Serich said.

Poland didn't need nearly perfect pitching the next day in Jefferson. The Bulldogs bludgeoned their hosts from the outset in the Mercy Rule shortened ballgame. Sophomores Jackie Grisdale and Lattanzio were just two of the hitting stars. Grisdale went 4 for 4 and collected six RBIs. Her sophomore sister smacked three hits herself.

The bigger story coming out of that second game, however, was the pitching debut of junior KaiLi Gross. Poland's pitcher gave up just one run on two hits. She struck out six and didn't walk a batter. Gross' performance played second fiddle to the fact that she was actually wearing a Bulldog uniform. The former All-All American Conference 1st teamer started her year as a member of the rival Canfield Cardinals. Somehow, a couple of weeks ago she showed up on Poland's doorstep ready and rearing to represent the enemy. It is akin to the best pitcher on the Yankees signing a free agent contract with the Red Sox. The only difference is there isn't any free agency in high school athletics. Regardless of the reasons how Gross made it to Poland, Serich is thrilled to have her.

"We welcome (Gross) here," said the coach. "She's a tremendous young athlete."

Gross is no stranger to her new teammates because many of them played together on a travel team that went to a national World Series. She also has faced them over the past two seasons when the Cardinals and Bulldogs were both members of the AAC.

"(Gross) has a good relationship already with our girls," Serich said. "My job is to make sure she is comfortable and enjoys her time here."

One job that Serich will not give up is taking care of the girls that he has forged a relationship with prior to Gross' transfer. He insisted they share the top of his priority list.

"I won't compromise anyone else's playing time," said Serich.

The coach won't have very long to insert Gross into his lineup or pitching rotation. Since she was a late transfer Gross will only be allowed to play the first 13 games of Poland's schedule. That clock started with game one and means the junior will not be eligible for the postseason. She will also have to pay an unknown amount of tuition since Poland is not an open enrollment school. Of course, if Gross elevates the Poland pitching staff as much as she did Canfield's, it will be money well spent.



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