Not all wins count the same.
Surely the Solon softball team had a grand old time beating up on non-league foe Mayfield, 13-3, to extend its win streak to four on Saturday afternoon at the Lady Comets’ Roxbury Field. Junior catcher Mia Cipriano even had a grand slam.
But it was a pair of victories earlier in the week that now has the Solon girls carrying a sense of confidence that they can beat anybody.
The Lady Comets defeated three-time defending Greater Cleveland Conference champion Elyria, 12-10, in an eight-inning road battle last Wednesday, handing the Lady Pioneers their first loss of the season.
And then Solon handed Division III state No. 10-ranked Independence – according to the first Ohio High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association poll – its first loss of the season, 9-7, on the road last Thursday.
With three wins last week, the Lady Comets improved to 6-2 with a 4-1 mark in the GCC.
“The Elyria game, in particular, you know, they’ve been the champions in our conference for a long time,” Solon third-year head coach David Donaldson said about the Lady Pioneers, who were 39-3 in league play the past three years.
“They’re kind of the gold standard of our conference,” he said. “So, with us, it’s just more of the mental aspect when we play them. Yes, we know they’re good. Yes, we know they play to the last pitch, the last out.
“So, for us, it was a test. I wanted to see, one, can we go into their place and play with them? And, two, if adversity hits during the game, can we work through that? So, we actually played them really well and hit the ball well. And, yes, they did make a comeback and tie up the game. So, I was proud of our kids. We kept our composure and executed when we had to.”
Under 25th-year head coach Ken Fenik, Elyria has nine Division I state final-four appearances in the past 13 seasons, including its program’s third state championship in 2017 and a 26-5 district title campaign in 2018.
When the Lady Comets took on Elyria last Wednesday, they commanded an 8-2 lead after scoring three runs in the top of the fourth, when juniors Claire Barkett and Julia Gersey led off with back-to-back singles out of the eight and nine-holes, senior Hallie Sutyak connected on a two-out RBI double to right, and Elyria committed an infield error that plated two more runs.
But the Lady Pioneers, who entered the game at 8-0, had scored at least 10 runs in every game of the season leading up to their clash with Solon, and that streak wasn’t about to stop. In the bottom of the fourth, Elyria scored six runs to tie the game at eight.
Both teams scored two more in the fifth for a 10-10 deadlock. The Lady Comets plated their runs when Cipriano led off with a double out of the six-hole, and then Gersey hit a two-out RBI single, sophomore leadoff Angelene Kontul singled to center and senior Kailee Grimm hit an RBI single to left.
The scored remained, 10-10, heading into the eighth inning, after Solon senior pitcher Allie Bican went one-two-three in the sixth and then left three Lady Pioneers stranded with a strike-out in the seventh.
“Every year we go in, especially with these three, and they’re all good pitchers,” Donaldson said about going with a rotation of Bican, Grimm and Sutyak for three seasons now, which is less common among most programs that ride an ace in high school softball.
“But we never know who’s going to be that person that kind of gets in a rhythm and kind of works herself into that primary starter role,” the coach said. “It’s kind of been back and forth, but right now I’d say Allie Bican has become our go-to pitcher, but anyone of those three is capable of stepping on the mound and taking over.”
In the top of the eighth, Solon freshman Jessica Marko hit a two-out single to left, and Cipriano blasted a home run to center for the 12-10 upper hand. While the Lady Comets didn’t graduate any players from last season’s 12-10 campaign, Marko provides a mainstay at first base after Solon’s pitchers rotated at that bag a year ago.
In the bottom of the eighth, Bican left Lady Pioneers stranded at first and second with another strike-out to preserve the victory. She tossed a complete game on 165 pitches, surrendering 13 hits, five earned runs and five walks while striking out five.
Solon’s offense finished with 14 hits and 10 earned runs.
“We finally found a way to beat Elyria,” Davidson said. “So, I’m hoping it would springboard us and give us some momentum going into the season, and maybe some confidence that we could make a run this year. I’m hoping that, when we look back on the season, we’ll say that was the moment for us, was getting over that hump.”
The next day, Solon found a way to defeat state-ranked Independence, 9-7, behind Grimm’s complete game on the bump. She tossed 140 pitches, surrendering seven hits, five walks and just one earned run while striking out six Lady Blue Devils.
Solon’s offense remained hot with 12 hits, including a pair of homers from Grimm and Bican, as well as multiple hits from Kontul, Cipriano and Gersey.
In particular, Solon plated five runs in the second inning with a two-out, two-RBI double by Kontul and a two-run homer from Grimm. Then, the Lady Comets had a three-run sixth, with a two-run homer by Bican and an RBI single from Gersey.
“The next day playing Independence, after that emotional game with Elyria, I wanted to see how we responded,” Donaldson said. “Were we going to come out little flat? I thought we started out the game well, we kind of went through a lull, and then, in the end, it just came back to what we talk about with these kids all season: Can you make the plays when you need them?”
With the Lady Blue Devils coming off a Division III regional runner-up campaign, Solon is the only team to hold them to single-digit scoring through their first seven games.
While Marko has provided Solon a mainstay at first base, Kontul returns at second base, senior sister Julianna Kontul returns at shortstop and senior Gabby Rapposelli returns at third base for a veteran infield. Not to mention, Gersey has been a jack-of-all-trades with time at second, third and short, as well as the outfield.
After knocking off Elyria and Independence from the unbeaten ranks, Solon put together a 13-3 victory against non-league foe Mayfield (2-9) on Saturday, when Cipriano hit that previously mentioned grand slam during an eight-run sixth to help put the run-rule in effect.
Sutyak tossed a complete game on 109 pitches, surrendering five hits and three walks with one strike-out. Offensively, Sutyak led the Lady Comets on three-of-four hitting with a double, two steals and a two-RBI walk-off triple in the sixth.
“Mayfield is a young team this year, but they came out and played well to start with a 2-0 lead on us,” Donaldson said. “So, they put some pressure on us to have to execute. And we were fortunate we had players step up for some timely hits and got some separation. So, there are no wins that are easy wins. You have to go out and play well.”
On Tuesday evening, Solon had its win streak snapped in a 5-3 home loss against Mentor, dropping the Lady Comets' record to 6-3 with a 4-2 mark in the GCC.