COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio - When Jen Solanics walks to the center of the softball diamond, most teams know they are going to have a difficult day in the batter’s box.
Solanics is the ace of Columbia High School’s (22-4) staff and has a big future in softball. Only a junior, Solanics has already committed to play college softball at the University of Toledo.
On Tuesday afternoon, Solanics not only threw the ball well, but made quite an impression at the plate. In a 3-0 sectional tournament victory over Trinity (13-6), Solanics drove in two runs with the first inning single to right field.
“They were telling us all game to stay off her high stuff,” Solanics said. “I stayed off of that and waited for it. She put it right there and I just hit it.”
“She has developed an ability to see the ball better,” Columbia coach Ken Richardson said of Solanics. “Last year and the year before, she would pull off of the ball and try to power it to left field. Now, she knows that if she puts the bat on the ball and she’s got good bat speed, no matter where it goes, it’s going to cause problems.”
Hitting against a good pitcher was difficult Tuesday because the home plate umpire had a wide strike zone. Most of Trinity’s hitters were thrown off by the zone. They mustered just three hits off Solanics and only one hitter, Kalli Holdash, was able to work a full count.
Solanics struck out 10 hitters and threw only 71 pitches.
“It definitely helped us,” Solanics said of the wide strike zone. “Emily [Nagle] was putting targets right off the plate and I was hitting them. They were either swinging or he was calling them. It worked really well. I trusted Emily behind the plate with the locations and threw it where coach called it. If they would hit it, I trust in my defense to get it. I just did what I was supposed to do.”
“We were a little nervous coming in and it showed in the first inning,” Trinity coach Ed DiFiore said. “A couple defensive lapses put us in a hole. You really can’t afford to get in a hole against a team as good as Columbia."
While Trinity struggled to find success at the plate, Columbia was able to register six hits and had two runners on base in three different innings.
“Just a few of them were looking at the outside corner and didn’t think it was a strike,” Richardson said. “The rest, I think, were ready. We actually had him umpiring last night and he was calling the high strike. He toned it down a little bit and we were surprised. That worked for us. Jen was able to hit the spots up in the zone.
The reward for a victory over Trinity is a rematch with Jeromesville Hillsdale Thursday afternoon at North Ridgeville.
The winner of the Columbia-Hillsdale match-up moves into Friday’s district final.
“From what I understand, in the last ranking, they’re No. 1 in Division III,” Richardson said. “They only have one loss. They are an outstanding team. They play good, fundamental softball and we have a big job ahead of us to break through and hold them down.”
Baseball: Lutheran West avenges loss
A year ago, the Lutheran West Longhorns found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-2 score in the district semifinals. The Longhorns had played well through the Patriot Athletic Conference schedule, but saw their dream of advancing to a regional tournament end with the loss to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
It was exactly one year ago Tuesday that Lutheran West suffered the season-ending loss. After 365 days of thinking about that setback, the Longhorns got redemption. Though it was not against CVCA, Lutheran West defeated Peninsula Woodridge 6-4 in the second of two district semifinals played at Cuyahoga Community College’s Mottl Field.
With the win, Lutheran West (23-3) will play in the district final Wednesday. The district final appearance comes two years after the Longhorns failed to win a single postseason game.
Track and Field: Nageotte Breaks State Record
The Southwestern Conference track meet was all but decided last Friday night. However, the pole vault competition was still being contested.
Defending conference champion and meet record holder Katie Nageotte (Olmsted Falls) was on her final opportunity to clear 12 feet, 10 inches and many of the other schools and coaches worked their way over to the pole vault area to watch her take aim at the height.
Nageotte ran down the track and was able to maneuver over the bar, breaking her own record by more than a foot. With the vault, Nageotte broke the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I state record.
“I can’t even begin to describe it,” Nageotte said after defending her SWC championship. “It’s just honestly the best feeling in the world. I just try to stay focused and keep my speed up.”
Nageotte will compete at the Division I district meet this weekend at Amherst’s Marion L. Steele High School. She is working toward a return trip to the OHSAA State Championship Meet.
Matt Florjancic currently works as a free-lance reporter and sports announcer for WOBL and WDLW Radio.