West Branch meets Poland in Division III softball semifinal
POLAND â" West Branch will meet a former state champion in its second postseason softball game.
Poland Seminary, which won the 2011 Division II state championship in the second year of three straight final four appearances, and West Branch are paired in a Division II district semifinal at 3 p.m. Thursday on Union Title Field at Alliance High School.
The Bulldogs, who sandwiched a 2010 state runner-up finish and a 2012 state semifinal berth around the 25-2 state championship season capped by a 4-0 win over LaGrange Keystone in the title contest, have made strides under second-year coach Jim Serich.
âWe had no pitchers with varsity experience heading into last year, and we had to experience growing pains playing a demanding schedule because we don't duck anyone,â Serich said.
Poland finished 11-12 last spring, opening the 2017 regular season with a loss to West Branch, which finished as the Division II district runner-up.
West Branch seniors Kelsey Byers and Kylie Coffelt, who share the pitching and first base duties; junior shortstop Delaney Rito; junior center fielder Grace Heath; sophomore third baseman Peyton Alazaus, and senior left fielder Hannah Sprague are the main returners from the team which beat Poland last season.
Those veterans and right fielder Jordan Anderson, second baseman Destiny Blake and catcher Samantha Morris â" all freshmen â" have bonded on the field and have helped West Branch win 21 of its first 24 games. One setback was to Louisville (3-0) and the other two defeats were to defending Division III state champion Warren Champion (7-5 and 3-2).
âThey have some seasoned kids, some talented kids back from the team that beat us last year,â Serich said âThey've been a very good program the last several years. Coach 'Sis' (Woods) does a great job getting those kids to p lay together.â
In Serich's second season as coach, Poland (17-5) has elevated its level of play. The Bulldogs are led by seniors Sarah Boccieri, Monica Kurjan and Payton Slaina.
âThey're friends with everyone on the team and they communicate with the other players, making sure everyone is focused on the team and team goals,â Serich said.
Boccieri, the shortstop, is a three-year starter headed to Cleveland State. She is a two-way impact player, making plays defensively and batting .580. Kurjan, one of three pitchers, has posted a 10-3 record. Slaina plays a solid third base.
The other starters are junior center-fielder Ashley Wire, junior second baseman Lauren Sienkiewicz and junior designated player/flex Tori Modarelli; sophomore left-fielder Brooke Bobbey and sophomore first baseman Ally Nittoli; and freshman catcher Camryn Lattanzio and freshman right-fielder Jackie Grisdale.
Bobbey, Nittoli, Lattanzio and Grisdale were part of a community youth recreational softball program which achieved success at a high level. They were teammates on the Poland team which captured the 13-14 year-old Little League championship in Kirkland, Washington.
âThe success of our high school softball program is dependent on our youth organization, the Poland Pride,â Serich said âWe use the facilities in Poland and the girls played recreation ball to be on the travel team. Recreation ball is Mondays through Thursdays and travel ball is during the weekends. They get a chance to play together and bond before they get to high school.â
Kurjan has done most of the pitching, but Wire and Bobbey have both seen action. Bobbey, who bats leadoff, and Wire, a three-year starter who hits third and is batting over .400, are the only left-handed hitters. Boccieri, the most consistent offensive threat, hits between Bobbey and Wire.
Poland beat Salem, another Northeastern Buckeye Conference team, 9-1 in the sect ional final to earn its shot at West Branch. Bobbey, Boccieri and Wire have done their part at the top of the order, but the entire lineup is dangerous offensively, including the two freshmen. Lattanzio, the No. 6 hitter, and Grisdale, who bats eighth, are both hitting over .400.
Poland lost four close games, including 12-10 to Canfield. The lone decisive defeat was 13-0 to Champion.
âWe didn't play a clean game against them, but we've bounced back and moved forward, preparing for our next game,â Serich said.Source: Google News Poland | Netizen 24 Poland