KENT - In the top of the second inning of Windham's Division IV?regional semifinal against Cuyahoga Heights, Jessica Isler stepped up to the plate with two outs, runners on second and first and the game tied at 1.
Normally a batter who attempts bunts to get on base, Isler was forced to swing away, and she didn't disappoint. The junior shortstop launched a fly ball in the left-center field gap. However, what looked to be a two-run double to give the Bombers the lead early turned into the final out of the inning when Cuyahoga Heights center fielder Dayna Denner got a good jump and grabbed the ball before colliding with her teammate Brittany Neco.
"Their center fielder made the play of the game," Windham coach Elliot Thompson said. "We scored two runs, maybe (would have been) more in the inning."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Cuyahoga Heights’ first baseman Katelyn Gervase, right, catches the ball, forcing out Windham’s Lexi Knight to end the game, and the season, for the Bombers. Cuyahoga Heights won, 7-2.
The Bombers could have used those runs in what turned into a 7-2 loss to the Redskins on Thursday afternoon at the Diamond at Dix Stadium, ending Windham's season. After Windham (16-7-1) took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third, Cuyahoga Heights (22-3) scored the final six runs of the game in spite recording just four hits the entire game.
The Redskins took advantage of a subpar performance by Windham sophomore pitcher Brittany Knight, who walked six batters throughout the game. Of those six walks, four went on to score, including four of the first five.
"Almost all those walks scored," Thompson said. "The difference in the game: not being able to get ahead in the count."
Knight's counterpart, senior Meredith Chopka, struggled early, but settled down once the Redskins took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third. After allowing six hits in the first three innings, Chopka held Windham to just two more the rest of the way, with just one runner reaching scoring position.
"Her composure is incredible," Cuyahoga Heights coach Christy Zawadzki said. "Even in our district final game, the girl in the first inning hit a home run over the fence, and Meredith just shook it all off and continued to just pitch her game."
Chopka received some aid from her defense, especially from Denner. One such example came in the seventh inning, as the center fielder ended the game with a double play when a Brittany Knight lined out to center and Denner gunned out Lexi Knight at first base.
"Dayna is such a strong player," Zawadzki said. "She knows the game so well. She could sense how far off first that girl was to even make that play."
With the win, the Redskins advance to the regional final, where they'll play Western Reserve on Saturday.
As for the Bombers, they lose three seniors off a 10-player roster, but they'll return the core of this season's district championship team. Thompson said this experience should pay dividends in the future.
"A few steps here and there, maybe get a little progress, learn from some things that happened, play in this venue at this level, it's good for kids - win or lose," Thompson said.