POLAND-Before the Salem softball team took the field before their Div. II sectional final against a very strong Poland team, Quaker coach Jodie Hippely told her players to leave nothing back and give it their best shot.
The Quakers responded with a fine effort, but unfortunately for them the overall strength of the Bulldogs was simply too much to handle.
Second-seeded Poland broke open a scoreless tie in the middle innings to eliminate ninth-seeded Salem 10-0 Saturday at North Elementary School.
"We played really well at the beginning of the game today," Salem senior Kari Seddon said. "But Poland eventually started hitting the ball and things kind of fell apart for us."
The Quakers (7-20) will conclude their season on Monday when they host Canton South in a Northeastern Buckeye Conference makeup. Poland (18-7) will play either fourth-seeded West Branch or sixth-seeded Marlington in a Div. II district semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at Alliance High School.
Salem bettered last year's win total by four. The Quakers also won their first tournament game since 2006 with Friday's sectional opener win over Niles.
"We started to play much better as a team as the year went along, and we were able to win some more games this year than we have in the past," Seddon said. "It's a shame the season has to end when we are finally starting to play great ball."
The Quaker bats were silenced the whole game by Poland starter Taylor Miokovic. The senior lefthander-who has a full scholarship to Eastern Illinois-breezed through five innings, striking out six and walking none. Sarah Smith, Raegan Meals and Hannah Carner each singled to account for the Salem offense.
"She was very tough to hit against," Seddon said. "She was one of the best we've faced. We could never get the bats going."
Senior Hannah Carner got the start for the Quakers and kept them in the game initially, negotiating her way through two scoreless innings against a dangerous Poland lineup.
"I thought the pitching was mostly pretty good this afternoon," Hippely said. "Poland has a very good lineup and as the game went on they started timing us up and getting their hits, but I thought we battled hard."
The Bulldogs began to hit Carner in the third, pushing across four runs on the strength of RBI doubles from Brielle Nocera and Claire Testa.
"We were lunging forward at the plate in the first couple innings," Poland coach Matt Campbell said. "We told our hitters to keep their weight back and be aggressive and we started to hit some balls hard."
To try and give the Bulldogs a different look, Hippely brought in the slower throwing Clara Janofa in the fourth, but by then the Bulldogs had hit their stride. Poland sent eight batters to the plate and scored five times to make it 9-0.
"We tried to change things up, but Poland was bound to start hitting the ball with as good as their lineup is," Hippely said.
Kathryn Wilson led Poland with two hits and two RBIs, while Amanda Kabetso wound up with a double and a single and Miokovic had two hits and an RBI.
"Anytime you have a team that hangs with you, no matter who they are it helps give you a little push," Campbell said. "We stuck with it and were eventually able to bust the game open. The bottom of our lineup came up with some big hits to get us going."
Miokovic is the second Poland pitcher in the last three years to earn a Division I college scholarship. 2012 graduate Erin Gabriel currently plays for the University of Tennessee.
"We've had some pretty good pitchers her in recent years," Campbell said. "Taylor hasn't had a lot of opportunities, but this year she has taken advantage. She is everything you want in your ace."
Poland has won district titles in four of the last five years. The Bulldogs were the 2011 Div. II state champions and state runners-up in 2010.
P-Taylor Miokovic, wp, (5IP, 6K, 0BB) and Jenna Schettler.
S-Hannah Carner, lp, (3IP, 0K, 1BB), Clara Janofa (2IP, 0K, 2BB) and Kari Seddon.