Piece of The Rock

YOUNGSTOWN – Most high school all-star games mark the end of eras, a last hurrah for many of the players before they move onto college.

For two players on the Trumbull County team in the 11th annual Mahoning and Trumbull Fastpitch Senior All-Star game and the inaugural Bill Sferra Fastpitch Classic, it had a different feel. Brookfield’s Lauren Hawley and Maplewood’s Brooke Dawson teammed up for the first time – and what shouldn’t be the last.

Both seniors are headed to Slippery Rock University and will play for the Rock’s softball program next spring. They didn’t know each other too well, which made Wednesday valuable learning experience.

“We’ve talked a little bit,” Hawley said. “Not a whole lot, but we talk every once in a while. We get to know each other more and more every day.”

Chemistry is something the two will need in the future, as they could be battery mates next season. Dawson is headed to Slippery Rock as a pitcher, while Hawley can play both catcher and shortstop.

They gained some valuable experience throughout the doubleheader. Dawson started in the circle with Hawley behind the plate for Trumbull’s 5-3 win in the first game, and the two teammed up again in the second game, which Trumbull won, 20-7, in five innings. Dawson came in relief for Hawley in the fourth inning, and Hawley moved back to catcher.

“The first inning, it was a little bit rough,” Dawson said. “Then we clicked and it went good from there.”

The duo even got to work on their connection outside of pitcher-catcher, with Hawley playing shortstop and Dawson taking over at first base late in the first half of the doubleheader.

“I don’t know how often that will happen in college, but I feel like we’ve made a really good connection today,” Dawson said. “I’m glad I got to meet her and play with her today.”

As for the games themselves, both the Mahoning and Trumbull squads struggled to get pitchers together, with some being unable to make the Bill Sferra Classic. Both coaching staffs – LaBrae’s Demetra Noble and Bristol’s Debbie Rowles for Trumbull and South Range’s Don Feren Jr. and Jeff DeRose for Mahoning – were forced to toss in those who didn’t step into the circle much during the regular season, such as Ursuline’s McKenzie Stimpert and LaBrae’s Paige Losey.

Both teams used some of the same pitchers across both games, with Stimpert and Cardinal Mooney’s Tiffany Komara pulling double duty and Dawson throwing in both games.

“We didn’t have many pitchers, and the ones we did have were backups in high school,” said Dawson, who pitched six innings over the doubleheader, giving up one run and one hit while striking out eight. “So, they needed one who knew how to pitch, so I decided to step in.”

The lack of aces could explain the offensive outburst that occurred in the later game. Trumbull rocked the Mahoning pitchers, and with the help of seven errors, produced of seven and eight runs in the third and fourth innings. In the third, nine-consecutive batters reached base safely.

“I think we adapted to the pitchers a lot better,” said Hawley, who drove in two runs in the second game, a number duplicated by Lakeview’s Laura Innocenzi, Lordstown’s Ally Hajnosz and Howland’s Olga Grech. “We got our eyes focused, and we got contact with the ball.”

While the fireworks ended the high school careers of the Trumbull team well, Hawley and Dawson said they were excited about the potential partnership they have going forward.

“We worked really well together,” Hawley said. “It felt like we kind of gelled really quick. I had a lot of excitement. It felt really nice to be able to catch for her.”