Just enough: Shade’s sac fly, 16 Ks lift Tigers past Girard

NEWTON FALLS – Bailey Shade isn’t one of those teenagers who thinks they know it all.

Instead of insisting on wanting to put down a squeeze bunt with runners on second and third and no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Shade took the advice of Newton Falls Tigers coach Bill Pelyak and took full swings. The decision paid off as Shade’s fly ball to center field sacrificed home Alexis Novotny to give the Tigers a 1-0 win over the Girard Indians in a sectional final of the Division III district softball tournament on Saturday.

“At first I doubted him (Pelyak), but they probably thought we’re going to squeeze,” Shade said. “I had been flying out. I was hitting them back pretty far. So, he was right.”

It was an easy call for Pelyak. Shade flied out to right and center fields in her first two plate appearances. The fly ball in the seventh went to fairly deep center field, where Callie Jay made the catch. Jay made a perfect throw home, but it wasn’t in time to get a sliding Novotny.

“I told her, ‘You’re going to hit the ball and get it up in the air and get her (Novotny) in,” Pelyak said. “She did what she needed to do. I had confidence either her or (Abbie) Harrah, the girl behind her, was going to get her in.”

The third-seeded Tigers (16-5) advance to the district to play Ursuline Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in a semifinal at South Range High School. Girard was eliminated with a 16-8 record.

It was apparent from the early stages of play that it might come down to one key moment, perhaps in extra innings. Shade was dominant in striking out 16, walking one and allowing two hits. Indians starting pitcher Neco Maderitz yielded three hits, while striking out five and walking none.

Shade struck out the first nine batters she faced and 14 of the first 15. Just three hitters reached base against her, including two in the top of the seventh when Maderitz walked and advanced to third on a two-out double by Jay. Shade struck out Mackenzie Olesky to end the threat.

“I get this many strikeouts once in a while, but this is definitely the best I’ve pitched,” Shade said. “Their pitcher, Neco, I play with her in travel ball. She’s awesome. I love playing against her.”

Novotny led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to shallow center. She stole second and advanced to third on a single by Madison Spahlinger, who then stole second to set up Shade’s heroics.

“I told their coach after the fifth inning that no one should lose this game,” Indians coach Renny Paolone said. “I really felt that way. We played LaBrae this week in a pick-up game. We quit after nine (1-1). I wish we could have done that today.

“They’re a good team. We’re a good team. They will do this league (All-American Conference) proud. They’re going to go a ways. I really believe that.”

Pelyak credited the leadership of Shade and fellow seniors Abbie Harrah, Tori Workman and Jessica Benetis. Shade credited the play of the defense behind her.

“We’ve definitely gotten better at defense this year,” Shade said. “Last year we were a little shaky. This year we’ve picked it up so much. I can’t strike out every batter. I need my defense.”