NORTON — It’s not often that the Walsh Jesuit softball team comes to the Barberton Division I district and doesn’t reach the final.
Since the Warriors moved over to the district in 2014, there has been only one time they didn’t reach the championship. That season was 2018, and they never forgot.
Fast forward to Wednesday and it was no surprise to see third-seeded Walsh knock out fifth-seeded Brunswick 10-0 in five innings. It’s the fourth time in six seasons the Warriors (14-2) have come out of Barberton to regionals and the third time in the last four years.
The Warriors advanced to an Akron regional semifinal on May 22 against the winner of the Solon District, to be decided Thursday when Hudson (18-1) and Solon (15-7) play.
"Man, the loss last year was tough," Maddy Schmeiser said of an 8-3 loss against Stow in the district semifinals. "Since then, we’ve gotten so much closer as a team. That game, our players that were scoring the most runs were off and we didn’t have backup. Now, we’re all backing each other up and keeping each other upbeat. We all have each other’s backs."
That philosophy has pushed Walsh the entire season and kept the Warriors strong no matter what the season threw at them. Mother Nature caused 12 rainouts and still Walsh stood strong, winning a share of the North Coast League.
When it came time for the tournament, the Warriors stepped up and beat Firestone, Wadsworth and Brunswick by a combined 31-0.
"We set goals and we set expectations," Walsh coach Tony Scibelli said. "Our expectations for a good year would be to win the league and make it to regionals. We worked very hard to meet those expectations and now we’re moving onto those goals."
That certainly came through in the win over the reigning district champion Blue Devils (14-13).
Riley Zana (10-2) pitched a two-hitter and struck out seven against three walks. That was par for the course for this district as the right-hander has now thrown four consecutive shutouts.
The Warriors hit as well, logging 13 off Brunswick.
Kristen Kuhrt (three singles, three runs), Schmeiser (single, double, two RBI), Abbey Rzeszutko (two singles, RBI) and Mia Desciscio (two singles, RBI) all had multi-hit games.
Things fittingly ended on a three-run home run to left by Zana in the fifth. Zana, who transferred from Elyria last year and had to sit out half the season, knew just what it meant to be moving on as well.
"We definitely used last season a lot," Zana said. "Also, being back on this field helped. We remembered being in that dugout and feeling what it was like to lose [to Stow]. We brought the energy. We were like, ‘OK. We’re going at it,’ and we brought it."
That energy hit a high in the third inning and ultimately did in the Blue Devils.
Clinging to a one-run lead, Schmeiser opened things up with an RBI double to left. After that Marisa Cartellone and Rzeszutko notched two-out run-scoring singles to put Walsh up four.
"They just had a lot of energy that inning and it carried on," said Brunswick first baseman and Cleveland State commit Becky Hurosky. "It kept going into the next inning and the next inning until they just won."