ELYRIA — Erin LaBoe was not a fan of the Elyria Softball Classic last season as the host Pioneers banged out 16 hits and scored 11 runs off the St. Joseph sophomore in a lopsided defeat.
Saturday she walked off the field at Vic Janowicz Memorial Park with a huge smile on her face after leading Elyria to a 9-0 victory over Columbia.
“Last year was not a good tournament for me, so coming in and being on the opposite side of it felt really good,” she said. “It felt pretty good because this was my first game back in Elyria, my hometown, my first win and I was pretty proud that it was a shutout.”
LaBoe has lived in Elyria her entire life, but attended St. Joseph Academy her first two years of high school before transferring back to her home school district.
She scattered six hits over seven innings against the Raiders, walking none and striking out eight in her first start for the Pioneers.
“She moved the ball around. She had a nice curveball outside, a change-up … different velocities and she kept the girls thinking,” Columbia coach Ken Lugo said.
“If they were thinking the right way I think they could have put the ball in play a little bit more. But she’s a nice pitcher and it’s a nice addition for them.”
LaBoe is just another option for an already strong pitching staff that includes fellow juniors Izzie St. Peter and Madison Olszewski. She also allows Elyria to throw another look at opposing batters.
“I like to do a lot of different speeds on my pitches,” LaBoe said. “I’m not usually a strikeout-type pitcher. I like to have a defense behind me that can get those groundballs. I thought my change-up really got them off balance, and then I came back in with fastballs and curveballs.”
It was the second time in three games the Pioneers were able to bounce back from a close defeat. After losing 12-10 to Solon in a Greater Cleveland Conference game Wednesday night, Elyria opened the tournament with a 6-1 win over Elyria Catholic. The Pioneers lost 9-8 to Bristol, which lost 14-8 to Columbia in its opener, before the strong showing against the Raiders.
“We’re still a work in progress and I’m happy with the way it turned out,” Elyria coach Ken Fenik said. “The fight in the game that we lost and in the two games we won, we finished the job. So … good weekend.”
Errors hurt Elyria in the loss to Bristol — it had three in the second inning and Bristol turned them into five runs — and it cleaned up that phase of the game nicely. Infielders snared hard-hit grounders, center fielder Damia Parks and left fielder Mallory Phares made diving catches and LaBoe even got in on the action by hauling in a quick comebacker and making the play at first.
“We switched some things up on the left side of the defense, with short and third, and I really liked what they did today there,” Fenik said. “Other teams are better hitters, but it seems like we’ve always prided ourselves on great defense and today we played some good defense.”
Timely hitting was also an issue for Elyria against Bristol — the Pioneers stranded 11 baserunners after outhitting the Panthers 15-7 — and that issue was also fixed in a big way.
Kerrigan Williams, Maycee Godbolt and Olszewski all had two hits, while Godbolt and Phares combined to drive in five runs.
Olszewski — who was part of that defensive adjustment, moving from third to shortstop – doubled to the gap in left-center in her first at-bat and drove in a run with a single through the left side in her second. She also scored a run and finished with a game-high three stolen bases.
“I really worked hard on letting the count set in, making sure I hit once I had at least one strike, so that’s why I got that walk, which was nice,” she said. “I like to be able to see more pitches and then I know where I’m going to hit it.”
On defense, Olszewski ended a pair of innings with a nice play on a groundball in the second and by snaring a line drive in the fourth.
“It’s really nice to know I can move anywhere in the infield,” she said. “I played first last year, third base this year with a little short … I pitch, too. It’s nice to be trusted there.”
It wasn’t the finish Columbia had hoped for, but Lugo said he was happy with the experience his players gained during the two-day Classic. After soundly beating Bristol in their opener, the Raiders held a big lead against Midview in their second game before the Middies rallied for a one-run win.
“We started good the first couple games and it seems like we went home and forgot how to play, but overall (my players) did well,” he said. “We had girls in scoring position (vs. Elyria), we had bases loaded and we just didn’t get that big, timely hit. In the first two games we did have that timely hit. It just didn’t happen today.”