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Poland's perfect season continues into state Final Four

May 29, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

This entire season has been a magical one for the Poland softball team and now it has become even more spectacular.

Poland's girls nipped Mogadore Field 6-5 in the Division II Akron Regional semifinal on May 22 then came back last Saturday morning to annihilate Mantua Crestwood 12-4 to win the regional championship. That means for the fifth time in school history the Lady Bulldogs will represent Poland in the state Final Four. Poland will play its state semifinal game on May 30 against Plain City Jonathan Adler at Akron's Firestone Stadium. Not only will the Bulldogs be playing that day for a right to challenge for a state championship, but they'll also be trying to win a school record 30th game in a row.

"It's been a magical run for sure," said Poland head coach Jim Serich a couple of hours after crushing Crestwood. "Our attitude hasn't changed since game one. They really believe in each other. This is a fun group to be around."

It was really fun for the Bulldogs in the first inning of last Saturday morning's title tilt. A bases loaded walk to Jackie Grisdale highlighted a three run first inning, which helped propel Poland's offense. Junior slugger Ally Nittoli would then nail a three-run home run in the fourth inning to increase Poland's lead. A five run top of the seventh put the game away for the Bulldogs. Senior Ashley Wire walloped a two-run dinger in that inning. Freshman Emily Denney and junior Brooke Bobbey would also knock in runs in the final frame. Other hitters with big days at the plate for Poland were freshman Abby Farber and sophomore Cami Lattanzio. The winning pitcher was the ace Wire who wound up going the distance to earn her 20th win of the season. She's a perfect 20-0 by the way.

Wire won her 19th game in the regional semis over Field. Although the championship clincher was rather easy, the win over the Lady Falcons did not come without some tension. Field was leading 5-1 heading into the final inning. Poland's dreams of an unbeaten championship season were about to be dashed. Calmly, the Bulldogs took their bats in the seventh and mustered enough offense to pull to within one run of their opponent. With two outs and runners still on base, Grisdale hit a fly ball to right field for what seemed to be a season ending situation. Field's right fielder fell down, however, and as the ball glanced off her glove Connie Cougras raced home for to tie the game at 5 apiece. Farber then hit a hot shot to shortstop that was mishandled by another Falcon scoring Grisdale with the go-ahead tally. That five run frame held up when Wire wiggled out of trouble in the home half of the seventh. Field's first two hitters reached base, but then Poland's fantastic hurler retired the next three Falcons in a row to send her club into the regional final. Serich was not surprised at his team's poise when faced with such hardship.

"They never refuse to quit, and they refused to lose," said Serich. "They put all adversity behind them and go get the next at bat. We have a lot of girls who have been on the big stage, so they don't let pressure get to them."

Poland's coach hopes that remains true in Akron on Thursday. Jonathan Adler is the third ranked team in Ohio and is 26-1 this year so stopping this school won't be easy. The last time Poland played in a Final Four game was in 2012 when it lost to eventual state champion Keystone LaGrange 4-0 in rainy, muddy conditions. It will be all sunshine if the Bulldogs beat the Lady Pioneers on Thursday. Of course, Serich already has been blinded by his beloved Bulldogs.

"No matter what happens this weekend the future for this program is bright," Serich said.

The winner of this semifinal showdown will meet either Hebron Lakewood or LaGrange on Saturday for the state crown. A rematch with the Lady Wildcats would be something that has been seven years in the making for the Poland girls.



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