GRANGER TWP. — You didn’t think the Brunswick softball team was just going to roll over and not defend its 2018 district title, did you?
The fifth-seeded Blue Devils continued their quest to repeat in impressive fashion Wednesday, handing fourth-seeded Highland a 4-0 Barberton Division I Sectional final loss.
Brunswick’s prize is a Monday trip to the Barberton Sports Complex, where the Blue Devils (12-10) will face top-seeded Medina (21-4).
“Defending the title is a huge drive,” Brunswick first baseman Becky Hurosky said. “I know we lost a lot of good players from last year, but we’re just as good because we have good freshmen and sophomores that have stepped up. We’re a young team, but we have some good people to fill those spots.”
One of the holdovers from last season’s regional team is Rebecca Zemanek, who was the pitcher of record in last season’s 11-5 district championship win over Stow.
The left-handed sophomore was in the circle against the Hornets (15-9) and twirled a gem, limiting Highland to a Liz Kasper double and Autumn Chorba single. She walked one and struck out four.
“She did an amazing job,” Blue Devils coach Julie Salzman said. “She had been in a little bit of a slump and she recognized it. For her as a sophomore to pull it together and do what she did tonight is incredible.”
In warmups, Zemanek (4-5) felt it with her fastball, drop, changeup and riseball. She transferred that to the circle and didn’t give up a hit after the second inning.
When Kasper and Chorba put runners on second and third with one out in the second, Zemanek amped it up. She struck out Elaine Kazimour and Riley Crandall to end the threat, and Highland put one runner in scoring position the rest of the way.
“I just had to think through what I needed to do,” Zemanek said. “I had to go through every pitch and what to do in every situation. It felt amazing. I just feel like I could do even more things like that.”
The game was still teetering in the fifth with Brunswick clinging to a 2-0 run lead. Alyssa Olah started the inning with a one-out single and went to second on a wild pitch. With Hurosky at the plate, Highland coach Brent Belsole was careful with the Cleveland State signee, but to her credit she saw the pitch she liked and doubled to center to score Olah.
“That was the nail in the coffin,” Belsole said. “We wanted to pitch around her. We talked about it and said after that pitch we were going to walk her intentionally and we didn’t.
“That one pitch she hit. She’s legit. I tried to stay outside on her and she took it outside. I took it inside on her in her first at-bat and she took it inside. She hit it everywhere.”
Mara O’Malley’s two-out single plated Hurosky later in the inning and gave the Blue Devils all the cushion they needed.
The bad news for the Hornets is the season is over. The good news is the four-time reigning Suburban League American Conference champs won’t lose a player to graduation.
“The future is super bright,” Belsole said. “We want to go far next year. Both pitchers coming back are phenomenal. Our fielders are phenomenal. They’re only going to be older, stronger, better. They all play in the summer. We’ll be a much better team next year.”
The district semifinal Monday at 4:30 p.m. will be the third meeting of the season between Brunswick and Medina. On April 8, the Blue Devils gave Medina all it could handle in a 3-2 loss. On May 1, the Bees beat Brunswick 7-1.
“We played them very well the first game,” Salzman said. “The second game I don’t think we were playing well together. I don’t think we were playing as a team. From what I saw today, we’re bringing it together right at the right time.”
Brunswick 4, Highland 0
Barberton Division I Sectional Final
BRUNSWICK 010 120 0 — 4 9 2
HIGHLAND 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
WP — Rebecca Zemanek (4-5) 7 innings, walk, 4 strikeouts. LP — Liz Kasper 4