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LOUDONVILLE -- Loudonville hosted the Ohio Wolfpack Crazy "8" 16U Amateur Softball Association girls softball tournament Friday through Sunday, July 21-23, with 10 teams participating in pool play over the first two days.
Buckeye Heat McCleary and Ohio Power Kyler advanced through Sunday's bracketed single-elimination tournament to meet in the championship game. Using a dominating pitching performance from Kaiti White, Buckeye Heat prevailed 6-2, despite a late-inning rally by Ohio Power.
White, who was a 2017 Div. IV first-team All-Ohio selection as a sophomore at Fairfield Leesburg, worked quickly and effectively in the circle. Having already pitched a few games earlier in the day, her strategy was to throw the fewest amount of pitches possible while trying to get through the order as fast as possible, according to Buckeye Heat coach Scott McCleary. She was able to do just that, inducing nine groundouts while whiffing six and walking none in the complete-game victory.
White cruised through her first five innings but ran into trouble in the sixth. After Anastasia Laguardia (single to center) and Kally Ashton (double to left-center) reached to start the frame, Mapleton High School's Brooke Durbin, the lone area player playing in the game from either team, ripped a line drive off the fence in left-center, scoring both runners. White limited the damage, however, by eliciting a pop up to second and then striking out the next two batters to get out of the stanza.
"She (Kaiti) is just a very, very good pitcher who has developed some off-speed and some different rise and drop balls that helps her. She's not just a flat fastball pitcher," Scott McCleary said.
Buckeye Heat raced out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, getting RBI hits from Maddie McCleary (double to right-center) and Arica Flaugher (single to center) in the first frame and a no-doubt homer to center by Sydney Lane in the second stanza.
After Ohio Power plated two runs in the top of the sixth, Buckeye Heat didn't flinch, responding with three runs in the bottom of the inning to kill any momentum that Ohio Power was building. Alexis Dye (fielder's choice) and Maddie McCleary (single to left) reached consecutively with two outs, bringing Keely Snyder to the plate. Snyder walloped the second pitch she saw off the fence in right field for a double, scoring Dye and moving Maddie McCleary to third. Flaugher then cranked a two-run double off the fence in right to break the game open.
"They (Buckeye Heat) know that even if a game gets close, they are capable and talented enough to come back and put more runs on the board," Scott McCleary said. "It shows a lot of perseverance for them."
Scott McCleary's team is affiliated with the Buckeye Heat Fastpitch organization that is located in central Ohio and includes 11 other teams ranging from 10U to 23U. His squad includes players from eight different schools. They have competed in eight tournaments this summer, playing in around 60 games during that span. Sunday's tournament was his team's first championship this summer, although they've had several respectable finishes in other tourneys.
"We're a good organization," McCleary said. "A very well-respected organization, and we come to tournaments and try to win them."
Despite the final outcome, Ohio Power starting pitcher Olivia Stefanoni was motoring along just fine until the sixth inning. Prior to that frame, she had allowed only four hits and the three early runs. She struck out three and walked a pair over her 5 2/3 innings of work.
Leading the Ohio Power offense with her two-run double, Durbin also had a single in the second inning, while Alexus Kyler (single) and Katelyn Bartos (double) also contributed for them.
"The first two games (of the day) we were putting hits in a row and we were scoring runs," Ohio Power coach Chris Kyler said. "This time we just couldn't get that going for us. We did there in the (sixth) inning and almost came back and took the lead there but just fell short of it."
Ohio Power, which is in its sixth year as an organization, is located in the Bath-Richfield area and has its own private indoor facility. This is Kyler's first year at the helm of his team, which will be making the jump to 18U next season. His squad has played in 10 tournaments since the season began last fall, doing well in all of them.
"We've faced the best teams in Ohio when we've played these tournaments, and we've always ended up in the top fourth of everybody," he said.