CANTON — Nothing came easy during the Falcons’ two trips to Willig Park.
That hard work paid off for Field, as they earned a 2-0 win over Tallmadge for the team’s first district title since 2009.
The Falcons (26-2) had to fight for everything they got Thursday against brilliant Blue Devils hurler Emily Pratt.
“She was very good,” Field shortstop McKenna Voiers said. “She worked out, in, everywhere, and she made us work really hard for it.”
Held to two singles over the first three innings, the Falcons got a spark from Voiers, who watched a knee-high pitch for strike one, fouled off a low and in pitch, then sent a low 1-2 pitch up the middle.
“She was throwing me low out and a little bit low in, too, and finally I just saw one,” Voiers said. “I just hit it and it finally just went somewhere besides them.”
Field coach Beth Dyer gambled on small ball — having cleanup hitter Emily Eckhart bunt with one out — with Eckhart getting the bunt down to move Voiers to second.
Dyer’s bet paid off when Maria Sziva grounded a low pitch up the middle. Turning a couple of pitcher’s pitches into base hits, the Falcons led 1-0.
Field sophomore pitcher Alexsa Hurd had retired eight straight at that point but promptly yielded a walk and hit-by-pitch to put runners on first and second with one out. Hurd extricated herself from the fifth by coercing a pop to second baseman Kiley Weis, then pinning two straight pitches to the upper, outside corner for an inning-ending strikeout.
In the sixth, Hurd leaned on Weis once more, as, with a runner on first and one out, the senior second baseman snagged a liner and tossed to Voiers covering second for the inning-ending double play.
“I was so excited,” Hurd said. “I was jumping up and down at first and then I gave her a big hug.”
At first, Weis didn’t realize how quickly the ball would come her way. She adjusted and turned it into a slick double play.
“It kind of took me by surprise,” Weis said. “I was really happy to see McKenna (covering second) and I just took my time and lobbed it. It was an exciting play. It was the highlight of the game for me.”
The Falcons’ lead secured for the moment, the softball firm of Hurd & Voiers provided insurance, with Hurd laying off a nasty two-strike drop ball, the same pitch she struck out on her prior at-bat, before lining a triple over the right fielder.
“She’s a clutch hitter,” Dyer said. “You knew she wasn’t happy that she struck out, so they probably weren’t going to get her again. She was going to battle and she went with the pitch and took it to the opposite side and did a great job.”
Voiers sent her home with a long sacrifice fly to left.
“I was thinking just put the ball in play and things will happen,” Voiers said. “It was a rise. I usually don’t swing at rise (balls), but I swung and it just went.”
That was all Field got off Pratt, with the senior giving up just the two runs on seven hits, six of which were singles.
“She threw well enough to win, that’s for darn sure,” Tallmadge coach Brittany Lightel said. “She just hits those corners so well. She’s very precise with her spots, specifically (with) her screwball and her drop curve.”
The Blue Devils finished with a 10-15 mark, ignoring their No. 6 seed to advance all the way to the district title game.
“We didn’t think anything of getting the six seed,” Lightel said. “We know how good we are.”
Ultimately, the Blue Devils fell just shy against the neighboring Falcons.
“Just in that little tiny pocket, there’s good softball right in this Northeast Ohio area,” Lightel said. “They have a good program and (we) would rather lose to a neighbor than anyone else.”
Just like Field demonstrated in a 3-1 district semifinal victory over Northwest Tuesday, the Falcons flashed unusual poise for a relatively young team Thursday.
Weis had played at the district level before — she was on the 2016 Falcons team that won a PTC Metro title, then fell in the district semifinals to Archbishop Hoban. She was the only Field player with experience at the district level.
No one knows better than Dyer how hard district softball is.
Year after year, Dyer has had strong teams at Field. After capturing their last district title in 2009, the Falcons won sectional titles six of the next seven years but never could regain that gold medal. Field suffered some heartbreaking close calls, from an 8-7 district title game loss to Fairless in 2010 to a 3-2 district title game loss to Beaumont in 2015.
On Thursday, the Falcons faced adversity, prevailed and brought a district championship back home.
“You know they’re fighters,” Dyer said. “These close games, they do show that they are fighters.”