Aurora -- Putting the ball in play, coupled with outstanding pitching and defense, enabled the top-seeded Aurora High School softball team to post an opening win in the postseason.
Junior Nicole Doyle, the Greenmen's ace pitcher, tossed a 4-hitter and struck out 14 batters to give Aurora a 3-0 home win over third-seeded Warren Howland (12-9) in the Division I sectional championship on May 16. The game was postponed from May 15 because of wet grounds.
Aurora (13-7) is scheduled to play Kent Roosevelt today (May 21) at 4 p.m. at Solon's Roxbury Elementary School in the district semifinals.
The winner of today's contest is slated to face Nordonia or Twinsburg to advance to the Akron regional and Ohio's Sweet 16.
Doyle (9-2) has allowed only six earned runs this season in 84 innings of work.
A talented pitcher and Chagrin Valley Conference player of the year, she has a superb rise ball and fastball, along with other pitches. She allowed two walks against Howland and also had two RBI and a double in the victory.
"Nicole pitched great, and defensively we had her back," stressed Aurora first-year head coach Jenna Micale, who is in her second campaign at Aurora (she was the assistant coach last year).
"OUR DEFENSE made plays and if runners got on base, we were able to get out of tough situations."
With Doyle's pitching, superb defense and some timely hitting, Aurora could have a deep postseason.
"If we can continue to put up a couple of runs each game, we will come out on top," said Micale. "Doyle has given up only six earned runs all season."
Against Howland, AHS put the ball in play. The locals had only one walk on offense, but struck out only one time.
"Offensively, we kept the pressure on the defense by putting the ball in play," pointed out Micale. "We struck out only one time."
Aurora, which was 22-2 overall last season, pushed across three runs in the bottom of the third inning. With Doyle's mound work, it was plenty to win, as the Greenmen had only four hits.
Hayley Cash started the third frame with a base hit and was moved to second before the Greenmen rallied for three consecutive hits. Cash is a junior catcher.
Senior Sam Arslanian had the winning run batted in, as she brought home Cash, while Doyle followed with a two-run double to seize the 3-0 cushion.
Versatile junior Elise Altobelli also singled in the win, as all of the runs came with two outs in the third. Arslanian and Altobelli can play second base, as well as multiple outfield positions.
"Hayley started the rally, and we were able to move her over with Sam picking up the first RBI," said Micale. "Doyle had a big two-out double."