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Austintown claims title: 10U softball team tops Poland, wins 1st state crown since 1980

Submitted photo Austintown Little League’s 10U softball team after winning its first state title since 1980. Team members are Annabel Mikesell, Gianna Hoops, Mila Hamley, Ava Fisher, Bella Mattern, Gracie Faunda, Marissa Polder, Peyton Severn, Kyndra Lake, Julia Jourdan, Addison Weidenthal and Ava Panamarzuk.

Austintown Little League 10U softball came so close to making history last year.

The team was just a couple wins from winning Austintown’s first Little League state championship since 1980, but ultimately fell to eventual state champion Tallmadge by a single run in the semifinal.

“We were right there with (Tallmadge) last year, they had a couple things bounce their way and they pulled off the win,” said Austintown 10U head coach Matt Hamley.

However, that loss provided the fuel and motivation for Austintown this year, and although it may have taken a year longer than it may have hoped, the team still managed to make history — winning the Ohio Little League 10U softball state title Wednesday, defeating Poland 14-2 in the championship game.

“It all started last year — we put a ton of time and work in and we have great softball players,” Hamley said. “We made the run last year and didn’t get the job done — this year, we came back with a vengeance and were ready to get the job done. They’re the best team in Ohio, and they have that title to show everybody forever.”

A lot has changed since Austintown’s last title in 1980.

Back then, Austintown chartered a Little League North and a Little League South team. The Austintown Little League South team that won the title was coached by Doris Gigee and consisted of players like Jodi Gigee Richardson and Anna Marie Nittoli, according to Austintown Little League president Buzz Palkovic.

“It’s been a long time,” Hamley said. “I’m very proud of the girls and it’s awesome that they were able to go out there and bring that first state title home in quite a few decades. It’s an awesome experience.”

Austintown started off its tournament run with a 15-0 win over Ashtabula on Saturday before holding on for a tight 5-4 win over Poland on Monday. Poland then made its way through the loser’s bracket and earned the chance to face Austintown again Wednesday night.

In the title game, Austintown was dominant from the outset, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings, including seven in the third inning. Austintown added four more runs in the top of the 5th inning to close out the win.

Annabel Mikesell, Ava Fisher and Bella Mattern each had two hits for Austintown, while also combining for seven RBIs.

“Annabel is our leadoff hitter, a very tough player — she makes all kinds of plays for us and gets on base,” Hamley said. “(Mattern)’s had a couple big hits for us this week, then Ava Fisher had a huge hit to tie the game up Monday, and I think she ended up having the winning run that night, as well.”

Mila Hamley, Matt’s daughter, led the way in the circle for Austintown, pitching all five innings, while giving up two runs off three hits and striking out 12. Mila and Gracie Faunda each added a hit for Austintown.

“(Mila’s) done a great job all year,” Matt said. “When girls do put the ball in play (against her), our defense makes plays. She’s also done well at the plate this season, so very proud of her for that.”

“All the girls contributed in one way or another as a player or in the field, so we’re really lucky to have a very strong team from top to bottom.”

Being in one of the younger age brackets, there is no regional tournament, so this state title marks the end of the season for Austintown. But that hasn’t stopped Matt from looking ahead to next season when a significant portion of the team moves up into the 12U age bracket.

Watching Boardman’s 12U team win a state title and win some games at the regional tournament has provided new motivation for the members of the Austintown team.

“We battled Boardman last year in our district tournament and they’re a very tough team,” Matt said. “I hope they advance to the Little League World Series, but it absolutely sets the tone and lights a fire under us and hopefully that will be us next year. I’m sure we’ll have to battle them next year and it sets up for a very tough competition moving forward.”

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