Fitch stays locked in

Falcons win district semi vs. Louisville

Staff photo / Joel Whetzel Austintown Fitch pitcher Sydnie Watts fires in a pitch during the first inning of the Falcons’ 6-0 win over Louisville in the district semifinals Monday. Watts fanned 17 in the win.

AUSTINTOWN — Sydnie Watts said she felt “on” this morning ahead of Austintown Fitch’s Division I district softball semifinal against Louisville.

The freshman ace may be feeling even better after fanning the first 10 batters she faced en route to a 17-strikeout day. She gave up just two hits and held the visiting Leopards scoreless as Fitch (21-2) rolled to a 6-0 victory Monday.

“I felt on since this morning. I don’t know what it was, I just (had a) pretty good sense this morning and obviously it worked,” Watts said.

Watts made quick work of the Leopards (12-13) throughout the day, only running into trouble in the top of the fourth. After picking up her 10th strikeout to begin the frame, Watts gave up back-to-back singles, and the runners advanced to second and third on steals to give Louisville a scoring threat.

But Watts worked out of the frame and stranded them there to preserve the shutout.

“With Sydnie on the mound and her defense playing behind her and (catcher) McKenna (Hogan) framing perfectly, we’re a very dangerous team,” said Fitch head coach Steve Ward. “We think she’s one of the best in the state.”

Watts also supplied some firepower on offense, as she recorded a pair of hits which included a solo home run in the bottom of the third.

That blast, Watts’ team-high 10th of the season, came immediately after Maddy Taylor’s solo shot. The pair of homers gave the Falcons a 4-0 lead at that point.

Taylor, who’s hit five home runs this year, went 3-for-3 in the win, and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

“For some reason, every time I hit a home run, Sydnie, right after me, goes and hits a home run every single time,” Taylor joked. “So everyone was kind of like, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and I knew it was going to happen. The energy is always great in (the dugout).”

The Falcons took the lead in the first inning after Taylor doubled in a run and then came around to score on a sac fly from Caitlin Mitchell.

After the two blasts put Fitch up 4-0, the Falcons tacked on their fifth run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double from Alison Foley. Taylor finished the day’s scoring off in the fifth frame by singling in Samantha Aey, who had tripled to begin the inning.

Of Taylor and Watts, Ward said, “They were staying steady (in the batter’s box). They were being — we’d like to say — patiently aggressive, and that’s (shown in) the fact they went opposite field with both home runs. So it’s just staying within ourselves, doing what we know how to do.”

After falling to Canton Hoover last year in the district championship, the Falcons say they’re eager for the chance to finish the job this time around. Fitch will face Green in the title game 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’re very focused,” Taylor said. “After that loss (to Hoover) last year, we want to go way farther than where we did last year. We’re looking to get to states this year.”

After Monday’s win, though, the Falcons were able to cut loose a little bit, something Ward encourages.

“They’ve trained so hard, and they put so much pressure on themselves that it was a point this year that we’re always saying person over player. We put the fun aspect in it, because (the players) expect a lot from themselves. So for them to be able to laugh with friends, have a good time and make lifelong memories, we’re very fortunate here at Fitch to have such wonderful people.”


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