The game of the year. The game for

By Tom Hardesty Record-Courier staff writer Published:

The game of the year. The game for all the proverbial marbles. The game with everything on the line.

The game that was never close.

With the Portage County League American Division title and a spot in the PCL title game riding on the outcome of Monday's showdown at Field, the Falcons took all the suspense out of the proceedings early and cruised to a convincing 9-3 victory.

The win gives Field the American championship with an 11-2 PCL record (20-6 overall) and a berth in the league title contest against National winner Rootstown on Thursday at Kent State's Allerton Softball Complex.

The Falcons, who just this past Thursday were beaten 5-3 by the G-Men in Garrettsville, struck for four runs in the first inning Monday and added three more in the second for a quick 7-0 lead.

And with junior pitcher Lisa Betts (11-1) in the process of throwing a four-hitter _ not allowing a hit until the top of the fifth _ the Falcons were in total control the entire way.

Field coach Ray Dickerhoof said his team's loss to Garfield last Thursday was a motivational factor on Monday.

"We just ran out of innings in that game," he said. "We got down 5-0, and it ended up 5-3. It was so quiet on that bus coming home you could hear a pin drop.

"The girls were ready to go as soon as (Garfield) got here. They were ready to play and they did. I'm proud of them."

The Falcons touched Garfield pitcher Sam Foy (13-4) for 10 hits. Senior catcher Kim Ball led the way with a triple and double; Tia Wilmoth had a single and double; and Ashley Ball, Betts and Beth Wright each had two singles.

"We started to hit (Foy) later in that game last week, and we started out today like we finished up on Thursday," said Dickerhoof. "I told the girls to just relax in the box, have fun and go after the ball, and we really hit well today.

"We took an aggressive attitude. I said if you see a pitch you like as soon as it leaves her hand, go after it. And it panned out for us. We were really focused."

Kim Ball got things started in the bottom of the first with a one-out triple to left field. Betts followed with a single up the middle to make it 1-0, then a single by Wright and a walk by Rachel Hendrickson loaded the bases with one out.

Foy then appeared to get out of the jam without further damage when she forced Jenny Trout to fly out to center for the second out, then induced Cammy Price to hit a playable grounder to second for what should have been the third out. But the ball went through the second baseman's legs, allowing pinch-runner Denise Shanafelt and Wright to score for a 3-0 Field lead.

Wilmoth then singled to center to score Hendrickson for a 4-0 lead after one.

"You can't make a three-run error in the first inning when you have the third out looking you in the face," said Garfield coach Jim Boyer, whose team fell to 16-7 overall and 10-3 in the PCL. "We just weren't fundamentally strong. We've come back on a few teams when we were down 4-zip, but it didn't look like they were going to give up their lead."

The Falcons didn't. Instead, they added to it with three more runs in the second.

Kim Ball's double to the left-center gap plated Becky Shanafelt and Ashley Ball, and an error on a ball hit by Hendrickson brought home pinch-runner Liz Koster for a 7-0 cushion.

The Falcons made it 8-0 in the fourth on Hendrickson's sacrifice fly to left that scored Ashley Ball. Garfield got on the board in the top of fifth on a single to left by Gwen Crites (single, double) that brought home Sarah Thompson, then Field made it 9-1 in the bottom of the inning on Ashley Ball's single to shallow right-center that scored Wilmoth.

Garfield plated two in the seventh. Crites' double to right brought home Thompson, and Brandy Polifrone's groundout to second scored Foy.

Despite the loss, Boyer said he was pleased with his team's showing in his first season with the G-Men.

"We're as good as anybody else in the league," he said. "We beat Rootstown and we split with Field, so we've done pretty well."

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