But rarely has a team been in the

By Tom Hardesty Record-Courier staff writer Published:

But rarely has a team been in the line of fire like the Rootstown Rovers were in Thursday's Portage County League championship game at Kent State's Allerton Softball Complex.

The Falcons blasted ball after ball into the outfield gaps, spraying blistering shots like grapeshot fired from a cannon. Even the balls hit right at Rover defenders were ripped with authority, making them extremely difficult to handle and leading to nine Rootstown errors.

And it all added up to a convincing 14-5 Field victory, giving the Falcons their first PCL title since 1994.

Field pounded 14 hits in the contest, with eight of the nine batters in the lineup finishing with at least one base hit. Five Falcons collected at least two hits, with Lisa Betts _ who also was the winning pitcher _ finishing with two singles and a double.

Leadoff batter Ashley Ball had a single and triple; and Rachel Hendrickson, Cammy Price and Jenny Trout each had two singles.

"We hit the ball hard, and when we do and they don't come up with it cleanly it's to our advantage," said Field coach Ray Dickerhoof, whose team finishes at 21-7 overall and 12-2 in the PCL. "We are an aggressive hitting team and we held nothing back today. We let it all hang out.

"Tuesday (6-0 loss to Tallmadge in the district semifinals) was no indication of what kind of team we have. We were shell-shocked. I honestly had no idea what to expect today. On the bus ride over I just told them to relax and have a good time, and they did."

The Rovers hit the ball hard as well, just not quite as often. They finished with nine hits, with Molly Jordan leading the way with a single and double. Losing pitcher Lindsay Bauer and Nicole Nader each had two singles.

"You could tell this was going to be a slugfest from the beginning," said Rootstown coach Dave Mullenix, whose team closes its season at 15-10, 9-5. "They just continued to hit and we didn't. They hit from inning No. 1 right on through inning No. 7.

"Actually, I thought we played real well offensively. We probably had more people on base than we have in our last four or five games. We just couldn't get them out. We kicked the ball around and they hit the ball real well."

The Falcons opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first when Ashley Ball came home on Beth Wright's single up the middle.

The Rovers then struck for three in the bottom of the second. A fielding error on a ball hit by Nicole Rosenberger scored Jordan and Liz Embick, and Bethann Paradise's squeeze bunt plated Rosenberger for a 3-1 lead.

But it didn't last long.

The Falcons came back with four runs in the third to take the lead for good. Ashley Ball led off the inning by reaching on a three-base error and scored on Kim Ball's single up the middle. Price later singled up the middle as well, scoring Betts and Wright, and an error on a ball hit by Tia Wilmoth plated Price for a 5-3 lead.

Rootstown cut it to 5-4 in the bottom of the inning on Embick's single to right that scored Jordan, but Field made it 6-4 in the fourth when Ashley Ball scored on Betts' groundout to short.

The Falcons then built a commanding 11-4 lead with three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth.

An error on a fly ball hit by Trout plated Hendrickson to start the scoring in the fifth. Later, Wilmoth's sacrifice fly to center scored Trout and Ashley Ball's triple to deep left scored Becky Shanafelt.

In the sixth, Price's groundout to third plated Betts and Trout's single to left brought home Wright for the 11-4 bulge.

The Rovers got a run in the bottom of the inning on Michelle Van Atta's single to left-center that scored Bauer, but the Falcons put the finishing touches on their championship with three more runs in the seventh. Kim Ball's sacrifice fly to left scored Ashley Ball _ who had again reached on a three-base error, Hendrickson's infield single plated Betts, and a throwing error following Price's infield single scored Hendrickson for the final margin.

"We did a lot of special things with this group this year," said Dickerhoof. "It was always someone different who came through for us. We accomplished a lot."

_____

PCL Softball Championship

Field 14, Rootstown 5

(at Kent State)

FIELD 104 132 3 _ 14 14 3

ROOTSTOWN 031 001 0 _ 5 9 9

Lisa Betts, Becky Shanafelt (6) & Kim Ball. Lindsay Bauer, Nicole Rosenberger (4) & Leslie Wampler.

WP _ Betts (12-1). LP _ Bauer (4-3).

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