But in the end, it was the veteran seniors who stepped up and delivered in crunch time with impressive performances during the first annual Huron County vs Erie County Sports Force Parks All-Star softball and baseball game on Tuesday night in Sandusky.
Plymouth’s Janet Arnold won MVP honors with her three RBI for the Huron County stars. She had a 2-RBI single to break open the ballgame late while slo adding an RBI on a fielder’s choice in the first inning. She had a stolen base, scored two runs and was hit by a pitch while also pitching two innings for a nice all-around ballgame. She led the Huron County team to a 10-6 victory.
The Huron County stars jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after the first inning when Willard’s Emily Nedolast ripped an RBI single and Arnold added her RBI fielder’s choice. It was St. Paul sophomore Alex Carper who led the game off reaching on an error and advancing all the way to third on the overthrow to first and scoring on a wild pitch to get things started.
“It was great to be able to start it off like that,” Nedolast said. “Everyone started getting hits after that and it really piled up. I was glad to be able to start it and get the dugout fired up. I wasn’t expecting this because they were full of some big school talent and we had a bunch of small schools represented, but every girl left everything out on the field and the outcome showed that.”
The team added two in the fourth, one in the sixth and four in the seventh when Arnold added her 2-RBI single. Monroeville’s Courtney Kraft drilled a 2-RBI double in the fourth. But the Erie County team would not go quiet ad they put up all six runs between the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. With the lead looking like it was slipping away in the eighth, the Erie County team made two outs at home. The first was a laser strike from centerfielder Emmalee Cooke of Western Reserve.
Normally a catcher, Cooke was on the other end of the play with her perfect throw to nail the runner at home.
“I didn’t really think about anything on that play,” Cooke said. “We were joking in the outfield to each other saying we were going to throw it home if it was hit to us. Luckily, I got to do it and I was the one to make the play. It was cool to be on the opposite end of those plays for once. Last time I played centerfield, I got hit in the head on a fly ball at Norwalk. So it was nice to get that redemption.”
Caper finished with two hits, a stolen base and a run while Desiree Chill of South Central added a hit, two walks, a stolen base and two runs scored.
“It felt great to come in and help the team win,” Chill said. “Coming in as a junior, it was great to be able to play with these awesome seniors and send them out the right way in their last game and really learn from all of these great players who are going on to play in college. It was the best experience and I look forward to going back into my senior year with everything I learned today.”
Norwalk’s Kayla Appeman recorded the win and the save as something that could only happen in an all-star game. She worked the first two innings shutting down the Erie offense with three strikeouts. She then came back in to work the ninth inning with a 4-run lead and sat the Erie County batters down in order.
For Chill, it was a bit of a surprise to walk away with the win.
“I thought we were going to get creamed,” Chill said. “I am thrilled with the win.”
Arnold took home the MVP trophy after taking over the six spot in the batting order, somewhere she is not used to doing.
“I have always been at the top of the lineup all year long so to be towards the middle was a bit of a change for me,” Arnold said. “I went up to the plate with a ton of confidence and I think it has to do a lot with my mom being in the dugout with me all the time as my coach. I knew I had to go out and do my best because this may be my last chance to play.”
Arnold played in her final high school game along with seniors Appeman, Kaitlyn Stoll, Cooke, Kraft, Elyse Roth and Taylor Good.
“It feels great to go out on top,” Arnold said. “I didn’t expect that to happen. I just wanted to leave it all on the field.”
The team was coached by Monroeville’s Abe Helmstetter who though his team made a statement on Tuesday night.
“To me, school size doesn’t matter,” Helmstetter said. “We have some great ballplayers in the Firelands Conference then adding those talented girls from Norwalk and Willard just made it that much better. We play very good ball in Huron County and we showed it today. We wanted to have fun first of all and I think we did that. I know I had a blast.”
Skye Mills of South Central, Carley Helmstetter of Monroeville, Kathy Vangilder of New London, Jena Adams of Willard and Emily Blanton of Plymouth also helped the Huron County squad to the win.