Ursuline tops Flashes, moves record to 10-0
YOUNGSTOWN — Two of the area’s top softball programs over the last few years met up on Thursday with Ursuline and Champion squaring off at the YSU Softball Complex.
With two home runs for Ursuline and a nine-run lead after three innings, it looked like the Fighting Irish were going to cruise to their eighth run-rule victory this season. Champion was able to close the gap over the remaining four innings, cutting the Irish lead to 13-6 at the final out.
“We’re really happy with the end result,” Ursuline coach Michael Kernan said. “Champion is just a great measuring stick of where we are. We know we’re playing good, Champion’s a great team. They’re a great team regardless of their record because they’re playing a great schedule. So for us to come out and get the results we did, we’re very happy with the outcome.”
Those two home runs came from back-to-back hitters as Alyssa Sheely hit a two-run bomb to score herself and Paige Ogden. The next hitter up, Julia Nutter, homered to extend the lead to 11-2.
The Ursuline bats have been extremely heavy this season as the Fighting Irish have scored at least 10 runs in all but one game so far. Ursuline also is an all-around team, holding its opponents to one run or less in six games this year.
“We’ve hit the ball well, we knew we were gonna hit the ball well, but our pitching and our defense are not far behind our hitting,” Kernan said.
Ursuline has the benefit of returning most of its lineup from 2019. Seniors Nutter, Emily Holland and Maris Barbato were key parts of the team’s district final run and have been relied on this season.
“We have most of (our 2019 lineup) back,” Kernan said. “Those were sophomores and some freshmen, now they’ve matured. We have those kids back from a 25-3 season, so as much as we missed a year, we maybe didn’t miss it as much as other people. That missed year is big for maturity for these kids, so I think that’s a little advantage going for us right now.”
That advantage has helped guide the Fighting Irish to a 10-0 record.
They have wins over McDonald (10-0), Geneva (23-1) and Howland (15-3).
Ursuline is competing in the Akron Racers Tournament this weekend with Berkshire and Cuyahoga Heights.
Champion (4-5) continues its gauntlet of a schedule today at Boardman at 4:45 p.m.
Still the defending state champions of Division III, the Golden Flashes have a very fresh lineup as compared to the 2019 title winning squad, with only one player returning to their position from that season.
Despite that, Champion coach Cheryl Weaver has continued to lay the pressure on her team, scheduling one of the toughest schedules they’ve had.
“Ursuline hits the ball, they hit the ball well,” Weaver said. “I was proud of my girls. I mean we were maybe three hits behind them, but they had a few runners on when they hit the long bomb and ours was a solo. We’re young; we’ve got one girl returning from where they played in 2019. So I’m proud of them. We’re sticking with a heavy schedule and hopefully I can get them ready for tournaments.”
The 2021 season will be one of learning for Champion as eight starters learn new positions as well as the 2019 JV players learning how the varsity game works.
“I have so many girls that didn’t play varsity the last time we played,” Weaver said. “They were JV players in 2019 and with not playing last year, they didn’t get the experience. This year’s a big learning experience, but we’ev got some older girls with experience and hopefully they can rub off and show these girls how we’ve got to play the game.”
The Flashes scored three runs in the fifth inning with Isabella Meyer, Brooke Whitt and Emma Gumont all crossing home plate after a double by Tayler Fuller. Senior first baseman Cassidy Shaffer hit the Flashes’ home run in the top of the sixth inning.
To say Champion’s schedule is a gauntlet may be an understatement. With constests against Ursuline, La Grange Keystone, Cleveland St. Joseph Academy and Akron Hoban all on the schedule, the fresh Golden Flahses lineup will surely be battle-tested by the time the postseason rolls around.
“I want them to see what we have to do to get back to state,” Weaver said. “All we’re worried about right now is to win the league. I’m not going to worry about the record or anything. We just want to keep improving, that’s all. I’m happy with the way they hit the ball today and they made some plays, but (Ursuline) pounded us.”