Purple power: Champion outslugs Newton Falls

NEWTON FALLS – The book is out on the 2013 Champion Golden Flashes softball team.

Newton Falls coach Bill Pelyak, who watched the Tigers split two All-American Conference games with the Flashes in the last two days, has already penned the words to the introduction – “Be careful; be very careful.”

The Flashes won’t win many 2-1 games now that pitching sensation Lindsay Swipas is attending college, but they might win a few games with double-digit scoring behind a power-packed lineup from top to bottom.

“They’re still Champion, and they’re still the defending state champion until somebody knocks them off,” Pelyak said after the Flashes’ 11-6 win on Tuesday. “They can hit. They earned every bit of that.”

The Tigers won the first of the back-to-back games Monday, 7-5. The teams combined to score 29 runs on 41 hits in the games.

Among the many hitting stars for the Flashes (2-3 and 1-1 in the conference) Tuesday was senior MacKenzie Kiser, who continued her torrid pace with a two-run homer and a double. Kiser hit three home runs in the two-game series.

“I felt really good as far as how I was hitting because I hit off of her (Tigers starter Bailey Shade) yesterday,” Kiser said. “I have confidence in myself and found the right pitch and went after it.”

The Flashes had 15 hits, including three by Brooke Culler and two each by Kiser, Amber Ricci, Kayla Hunt and Brittany Allen. Allen drove in four runs. Kiser and Ricci each had two RBIs.

In previous seasons Flashes coach Cheryl Weaver could play small ball, if needed, and let Swipas do the rest from the pitcher’s circle. That style has been modified quite a bit this season.

“We just have to keep it going,” Weaver said. “A lot of people say without Lindsay we might not be the same team, and we’re not. But there are a lot of bats still on this team and a lot of desire to keep winning.

“I can’t worry about records right now. As long as this team keeps improving and feels good about themselves, we’ll do alright.”

Hunt started and went the distance for the Flashes, allowing six runs on 11 hits. Five of the runs were unearned because of two errors in the third inning. Jenna Ballas hit a solo home run off Hunt leading off the fourth inning.

Shade allowed 13 hits and 10 runs in five innings before being relieved by Ballas at the start of the sixth inning.

“It’s a smack in the face is what it is,” Pelyak said after the Tigers fell to 4-1 and 1-1 in the conference. “It’s a wake-up call. Bailey needs to work and we all need to work as a team. Our hitting is there this year. Bailey will be fine. She had a couple rough outings, but I have confidence Bailey will come through and be fine.”

The Flashes scored twice in the top of the third on singles by Hunt and Allen to take a 4-0 lead. The Tigers sent nine batters to the plate in the five-run third. The big hit was a two-run single by Jessica Benetis.

After Ballas’ home run gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead, the Flashes sent 10 batters to the plate in scoring six runs in the fifth. Allen drove in two runs with a double, and Ricci drove in two with a single. Haylee Gardiner and Kenzie Goranitis both drove in one run.

Kiser doubled leading off the sixth and scored on a ground out by Allen.