This couldn't have been more evident than in

By Eric Clutter Record-Courier staff writer Published:

This couldn't have been more evident than in Wednesday night's Portage North District Tournament A Division semifinal game between Garrettsville Italian Garden and Crestwood A-1 at Aurora's Sunny Lake Park.

Paul, Italian Garden's ace pitcher who came back from an injury Tuesday to pitch her team into Wednesday's contest, showed tremendous poise in getting herself out of three jams.

This allowed her teammates to push across a run in the top of the seventh inning that broke a 4-4 tie and gave Italian Garden a 5-4 victory.

Garrettsville now advances to Saturday's final against Windham Sparkle Market. That game will get underway at noon at Sunny Lake Park.

Italian Garden (10-4) plated the winning run without the ball being put in play.

With one out in the top of the seventh, Crestwood's Brittany Moore hit Nia Ellison with a pitch. Ellison proceeded to steal second and third, before Miranda Porter struck out for the inning's second out. Ellison then darted home on a wild pitch.

Crestwood (10-3) threatened immediately in their last at-bat, placing runners at second and third with no outs.

But Paul, showing maturity and poise that you wouldn't expect from a fourth grader, slammed the door as she struck out the side enabling Garrettsville to defeat Crestwood for the first time in three meetings this summer.

"She is a natural athlete and she just has that gift to focus. She doesn't get rattled and stays focused," stated Garrettsville coach Jim Reider.

Going the distance for the first time in her very young career, Paul finished with 16 strikeouts and struck out the side on three occasions.

"This is the first time she has ever pitched an entire game, a full seven innings. It was a lot of work," added Reider. "This is nothing more than a team effort, excellent play by all. They stuck together as a team. They, themselves, wanted this game more than any of us coaches wanted it."

Earlier in the game, already leading 3-2, Crestwood squandered a chance to break the game open.

Courtney Carnes tripled to open the bottom of the fourth and eventually scored on a wild pitch, putting Crestwood ahead by a run. Crestwood then loaded the bases with one out but Paul struck out Samantha Usher and Allyson Cook.

With the score again knotted at 4-4 in the sixth, Crestwood's Katie Miner led off with a single and then advanced to third with no outs. But once again Paul toughened up and struck out the next three batters.

"We knew it would be close," said Crestwood coach Darren Cook. "Their girl pitched well tonight."

Ellison led the Italian Garden offense with a run-scoring triple in the first inning that gave Garrettsville a 2-0 lead.

Moore and Carnes each had an RBI for Crestwood.

In late games played Tuesday, Crestwood B-2 eliminated Streetsboro B's 23-2 and the Solon Stars ousted Garrettsville Porter's IGA 17-5.

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