Lakeview can’t keep up with West Branch attack in loss

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Lakeview's Sam Marino, right, and Avrey Steiner celebrate Steiner scoring in the bottom of the third inning Thursday. West Branch beat Lakeview, 7-2, in a Division II Alliance District softball semifinal.

ALLIANCE — The second-seeded Lakeview Bulldogs knew full well what they were getting Thursday.

Third-seeded West Branch showed what it could do early and often in Thursday’s Division II Alliance District softball semifinal.

The Warriors scored four times in the top of the second inning and made quick work of the Bulldogs in a 7-2 victory.

West Branch (23-4) plays fourth-seeded Marlington in today’s final at 5 p.m., back at Alliance. The Dukes beat top-seeded Hubbard, 5-2, in the other semifinal. The two Northeastern Buckeye Conference teams upended the two All-American Conference White Tier teams.

For Lakeview (16-5), it started when West Branch’s Bailey Byers, one of the best home run hitters in the state, hit a two-run homer in the second inning. It broke things open as the Warriors led 5-0.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Lakeview's Tori Wells catches a pop fly at first base during Thursday's Division II Alliance District softball semifinal in the top of the fourth inning. West Branch won, 7-2.

It wasn’t the long ball which doomed Lakeview. West Branch’s bunting ability got the runners moving and out to the early lead.

The Bulldogs had three errors as well, one in each of the first three innings.

“Their small game hurt us big time,” Lakeview coach Vicki Lawrence said. “We made a few extra mistakes. When you play a team like that, it kills you.

“They got on top of us. We had mistakes right away. Then, they kept adding on to their score.”

The Bulldogs got on the board in the bottom of the second when Sam Marino scored as Marissa Zoccali grounded to first base.

Lakeview got another run back in the bottom of the third inning as the Bulldogs’ speedy shortstop, Avery Steiner, bolted home and slid under the tag after Tori Wells grounded to third base.

However, Lakeview stranded three runners in those innings.

“You’ve got to take advantage of any mistake they make,” Lawrence said.

Lakeview pitcher Cait Kelm settled down after the first two inning and didn’t allow a run after that, with some help from her defense. Kelm had two strikeouts and four walks.

West Branch pitchers Kylie Coffelt and Kelsey Byers combined for seven strikeouts and one walk.

Bulldogs centerfielder Kylee Mann almost made a spectacular diving catch in the top of the sixth inning, but went down and was helped off the field.

Lawrence said Mann wasn’t feeling well prior to the game and was sporting a jacket on a day when it was in the mid-80s.

“She’s a senior and she gave us everything she had,” Lawrence said. “She wanted to play and we wanted her to play. She had to go down like that.

“She’s wiped out. She played not feeling well at all.”

This was Marino’s last game as well. She’s hoping her team can come back next year, work on the things they need to improve upon and go further.

“Hopefully they’ll come back and get another title again. I’m rooting for them,” she said.