For the first time ever, the best softball players in Cuyahoga County got a chance to shine against the best from Lorain County.
Lorain staved off a three-run, ninth-inning push from Cuyahoga to win 4-3 in an All-Star game between the two teams June 11 at LaGrange Community Park.
In the past, Lorain County would divide its All-Stars into two teams that played each other. The inclusion of Cuyahoga County was made possible by the formation of the Cuyahoga County Softball Coaches Association at the start of the season.
The coaches of the 26 teams in the association voted on first, second and third teams, with the first and second teamers representing the county in the All-Star game. The third team served as alternates.
Six local athletes were named to the first two teams — Jessie Varnis and Alex Balson, North Olmsted; Elizabeth Williams, Lauryn Leslie and Angelina Lopez, Fairview; and Marissa Smiley, Rocky River. Smiley was unable to make the game.
For Lorain, North Ridgeville’s Anna Lengel and Avon’s Meghan Dean represented West Life’s coverage area as All-Stars, though only Lengel took part in the game.
“I feel really honored. It was super fun,” Lengel said. “I’ve never played travel ball before so I really know none of these girls personally at all. I think it’s really cool to talk and get to know these girls that I’ve played with for four years on different teams.”
After starting pitchers Sydney Campbell (Lorain) and St. Joseph Academy’s Maya Johnson (Cuyahoga) kept the game scoreless through the first two innings, Lorain struck first in the bottom of the third when Keystone’s Autumn Accord hit a two-out double and later scored on a wild pitch and error.
Lorain tacked on three more in the sixth to go up 4-0. It looked as though that result would hold, thanks to dynamite relief pitching from Amherst’s Madison O’Berg. In the top of the ninth, though, Cuyahoga made its late push.
Three runs scored — two coming on the legs of Fairview players — to cut the deficit to just one run. But Lorain secured the final out and won.
Afterward, players on both teams talked about how the other team took different approaches to the game than originally anticipated.
“I think this experience was a really good one,” Midview’s Ella Leonard said. “They came out ready to play. We were just kind of chilling. We weren’t really taking it seriously. We were just gonna have fun, but they were ready to go and I think it’s a good experience playing against different counties.”
Fairview’s Williams said Cuyahoga’s late rally was a credit to her team taking advantage of Lorain getting complacent with its lead.
“We wanted to win. Our coach was talking about the rivalry between the two teams,” Williams said. “I think they got really cocky in the eighth (and) ninth.”
Cassie Gaye, North Olmsted head coach and president of the CCSCA, was thrilled with the turnout and said this cap for the association’s first year has it set up well for year two.
“I think it’s awesome,” Gaye said. “There’s a ton of fans here, girls have their teammates here watching them and it’s an incredible atmosphere, Lorain does a great job planning this every single year for their county so it’s great to be a part of it and kind of tag along with it. Next year we can hopefully bring it to Cuyahoga County — that’d be cool to see. You’re watching the best of the best in the county. It paints a great picture of what softball is in Cuyahoga County.”
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