TALLMADGE — The sight of Autumn Malicoat squaring up to bunt has been a nightmare for opposing defenses.
On Friday, the speedy sophomore center fielder showed she can strike fear with her impressive power, too.
Thanks to Malicoat’s seven RBIs, the host Tallmadge softball team earned a trip to Division II district play with a convincing 15-5 victory over eighth-seeded Canton South at Stein Field. The game was called after six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.
With the win, the Lady Blue Devils earned a date with with fifth-seeded Canal Fulton Northwest in a Division II district semifinal game. That contest is scheduled to take place Wednesday at Willig Park in Canton. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
Northwest advanced with a 3-1 win over fourth-seeded Field.
Tallmadge, which scored a commanding 10-0 win over Aurora in five innings to capture its second straight Suburban League American Conference title two days earlier, wasn’t nearly as electrifying against the Lady Wildcats.
But the Lady Blue Devils were plenty good enough.
"It was a good game," Tallmadge head coach Ed Seeker said. "We need to clean some things up on defense and do a better job with our baserunning, but we hit the ball really well."
They sure did.
The Lady Blue Devils finished with 17 hits and one error. They took complete control with six runs in the bottom of the second and four more in the third to take an 11-1 lead.
The catalyst for Tallmadge’s explosive offense was Malicoat, who had three hits, including a three-run homer to left-center field in the second and a two-run triple to end the game in the sixth.
Malicoat’s big boppers showcased her versatile offensive game. Thanks to her speed, Malicoat has reached base on a regular basis throughout the season with her impressive bunting ability.
This time, the sophomore decided to swing away. Obviously, that wasn’t a bad approach either.
"I thought Autumn’s home run was huge," Seeker said. "That opened things up for us."
Malicoat got plenty of help from her friends.
Sophomore catcher Jordyn Severns, the team’s leadoff batter, had her usual productive performance with three hits, including two doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Not to be outdone, senior shortstop Gabbi Gray was the Lady Blue Devils’ only batter in the starting lineup who reached base safely in all of her plate appearances.
Gray had four hits, including a double, in four at bats, three runs scored and an RBI.
Senior third baseman McKayla Hajjar added two hits, two RBIs and a run scored and sophomore designated player Gia Marfy contributed two hits and an RBI.
"We were aggressive at the plate," Seeker said. "We hit a lot of line drives instead of fly balls. Canton South’s top three hitters were decent. The difference is we can hit one through nine."
Junior right-hander Emily Pratt, who dominated the Lady Greenmen Wednesday, didn’t have her best stuff. However, she pitched all six innings to improve to 12-2.
Pratt gave up just two earned runs and finished with nine strikeouts and one walk.
"Emily threw a good game," Seeker said. "She wasn’t quite as sharp as she was Wednesday, but she still threw well."
The Lady Wildcats finished with just five hits, but they made them count.
Third baseman Sharon Williams, Canton South’s leadoff batter, had two hits and two runs scored and shortstop Morgan Dalton finished with two hits, including a double, a run scored and an RBI.
Canton South, which committed one error, made solid contact plenty of times, but Pratt managed to make key pitches to get outs.
Tallmadge had a few runners picked off on force plays, which didn’t exactly bring much cheer to Seeker. Nonetheless, the veteran Lady Blue Devils skipper likes what he sees from his talented ballclub.
"We need to clean up some mistakes," Seeker said. "We had a bad day on the bases. That could cost us down the road, but we got some hits with runners in scoring position."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.