Lady Gladiators face Game 3 in region finals

Rubber match slated for Saturday in West after Crawford bounces back in Game 2

Daily Light report
Italy's Emily Janek delivers to the plate during Saturday's series-clinching 10-1 playoff win over Petrolia. Janek had 13 strikeouts and was one strike away from a no-hitter on Wednesday night in a 3-1 win over Crawford in Game 1 of their Class 2A Region II final series in Whitney.

WHITNEY — The Class 2A No. 3 Italy Lady Gladiators will play No. 6 Crawford on Saturday morning in West for the right to advance to the University Interscholastic League state semifinals.

Facing elimination, the Lady Pirates jumped in front early and held on for a 6-3 win at Whitney High School on Thursday night to earn a split and force a deciding Game 3 in their best-of-three 2A Region II final series.

Crawford (24-5) drew first blood on a two-run error in the first inning and added two more runs in the second inning on a Grace Powell single to give the Lady Pirates a chance to pull out a series win.

Game 3 will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday at West High School.

Italy ace Emily Janek, who lost a no-hitter on Wednesday night while down to her last strike, allowed six runs, only three of which were earned, on eight hits in Thursday’s Game 2. Janek struck out six and walked one on only 80 pitches, which by softball standards should mean Janek will be sufficiently rested for Saturday’s rubber game.

Crawford pitcher Kenzie Jones allowed only four Italy hits while walking four, throwing 115 pitches.

The Lady Gladiators (37-3), trailing 4-0 after three, finally got on the board in the top of the fourth as Macey Cooper singled home a run with her team’s first hit of the evening and Courtney Saich, courtesy-running for catcher Cadence Hopgood, scored on an error at third base off the bat of Janek to trim the deficit in half.

But Crawford tacked on two more in the bottom of the fourth and the only Italy reply afterward was an RBI single by Brooklyn Steinmetz.

In Wednesday evening’s Game 1, it was a tough way to lose a no-hitter — down to the final strike in the seventh inning — but no matter, Janek and the Lady Gladiators settled for a 3-1 victory to give Italy a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three matchup.

Janek finished with 13 strikeouts — including eight in a row at one point — and issued one walk on a full count with two outs in the fifth inning for Crawford’s first base runner. The Lady Pirates hit just one fly ball out of the infield in the first six innings.

In the seventh, with a 3-0 lead, Janek induced a grounder and a foul pop for two quick outs. But with one strike to go, Crawford’s Kylie Ray broke up the no-hit bid with a single to center and Jones followed with a triple to left, scoring Ray and changing the complexion of the game immensely.

But only for a moment, as Janek regrouped and struck out the last Crawford batter swinging to close out Game 1.

Ella Hudson was 2-for-3 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored for Italy, and Morgan Chambers was also 2-for-3 with an RBI.

After stranding a runner at second base in the first inning, the Lady Gladiators got on the scoreboard in the second inning when Chambers singled home Kinley Cate, who had led off the inning with a walk and stolen second.

In the third inning, Italy tacked on two more runs as Keri Scott led off with a line single to center and immediately scored on Hudson’s triple. Hudson in turn touched home on Hopgood’s groundout to make it 3-0.

That was all the run support Janek needed as she did the rest in the circle. Janek threw 103 pitches, but 73 were for strikes as she pounded the zone.