NEWARK – In between getting his team ready for pregame infield and watching visiting Milford take theirs, Newark softball coach Tim Schofield said he hoped his girls were ready to go for Tuesday’s Class 1A sectional semifinal.
After the first inning, he had his answer.
Norsemen freshman pitcher Kodi Rizzo quickly struck out the Bearcats’ side in order in the top half – part of her day’s no-hit effort in the circle – and then the Newark offense put up four runs on five hits in the bottom half to jump-start subsectional top-seed Newark to an impressive 11-0, five-inning victory over No. 2 Milford.
The Norsemen (19-3) will now host Marquette Academy (11-8), a 13-7 winner over Dwight, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday for the sectional championship. Newark defeated the Crusaders 4-2 back on May 14.
“As a coach, you always are wondering if your team is ready to go. Well, they showed me right away in the first inning today that they were.”— Newark softball coach Tim Schofield
“We talk all the time about putting pressure on the opposing defense quickly and often,” said Coach Schofield, his team hitting .443 in its last four games. “We also want to win every inning, even if it’s by a run, and everyone has to be doing their job from start to finish. If we do all of those things, we’ll be fine. The girls played really well today and did all the little things that we talk about doing as well.
“As a coach, you always are wondering if your team is ready to go. Well, they showed me right away in the first inning today that they were.”
After getting the aforementioned four tallies in the first on a two-run single by Kaitlyn Schofield, a wild pitch and an RBI base hit from Peyton Wohead, leadoff hitter Emily Schofield blasted a solo home run to left-center to begin the second. Later, her sophomore sister Kaitlyn drove in her third run of the game with a double to the gap in right-center to make it 6-0.
In the third, Kailey Wohead reached on an infield error, and Rizzo followed with a single to send Wohead to third. Catcher Emily Schofield launched the first pitch well over the fence in left, but the field umpire called a no pitch and ruled the runner on first had left early, thus disallowing the swing. However, five pitches later Schofield found another pitch to her liking and smashed the ball over the fence in left-center to make it 8-0.
“Things are just clicking for me at the plate right now, I really don’t know how else to explain the last couple of games, to be honest.”— Newark's Emily Schofield
“That swing felt really, really good, probably my best-hit ball all season,” said Emily Schofield, who was coming off hitting for the cycle in the regional title game and has 12 hits in her last 15 at-bats. “I was disappointed at first, but I knew our runner was upset, and I just wanted to hit another one for her to help her feel better.
“Things are just clicking for me at the plate right now, I really don’t know how else to explain the last couple of games, to be honest. My hitting coach and I work a lot on the mentality of hitting, and much of that is relaxing and just seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. I’ve felt really calm at the plate lately, so maybe that’s why I’m having some pretty good success.”
Newark plated three runs in the fourth, starting with Kaitlyn Schofield and Danica Peshia lining consecutive doubles. Then with two outs, Kailey Wohead provided a no-doubt-about-it homer to right-center to score Peshia and make it 11-0.
While the Newark bats were doing damage, Rizzo was using her strong fastball and even stronger changeup to baffle Milford’s batters. She finished the shortened no-no allowing just two baserunners – an error on a grounder by Brylee Wright and a walk to Emma McEwen in the fifth. In fact, the Bearcats never had a batted ball leave the infield.
“I was definitely nervous before the game with this being my first sectional, but once I got out there and started my warmup pitches, the nervousness went away pretty quickly,” said Rizzo. “It was a big game for us today, and I just didn’t want to let my team down with walks or hit batters. I just wanted to throw strikes, and if they hit it, they hit it.
“I felt like I really did a good job of locating my changeup today, maybe the best I have all season. I have a different grip than most pitchers do, but for me it just makes the ball come off my hand slower.”
So what did Emily Schofield say when she was asked what she would do if she had to face Rizzo?
“Usually the changeup is my weak point,” she said. “I’m just happy she’s on my team and I don’t have to hit against her, that’s for sure.”