BY ED WRIGHT
April 28, 2010, 10:45 p.m.
Supremacy in the KLAA South Division was up for grabs Wednesday afternoon at Canton's Legacy Field.
That is, until Chiefs center fielder Jesse Larner made an amazing horizontal grab in the seventh inning to seal Canton's crucial double-header sweep of cross-town rival Plymouth.
Canton won the first game, 4-1, behind the 12-strikeout effort of senior captain Amy Dunleavy. The Chiefs hung on to win the nightcap, 8-5, as Plymouth roared back from a 7-1 deficit to make things interesting in the final frames.
The Chiefs improved to 11-0 overall and 6-0 in the division. Plymouth slipped to 10-4 and 4-2, respectively.
A scary scene unfolded in Plymouth's dugout moments after the Wildcats were set down in the second inning. Marissa Blassic, the team's power-hitting junior outfielder, experienced breathing troubles after returning to the dugout after grounding out to third base earlier in the inning.
After the breathing problems persisted for a few minutes, paramedics were called to the scene and Blassic was placed on a stretcher and transported to a local hospital.
Plymouth coach Val Canfield reported that Blassic was doing much better later that night.
"When something like that happens, you realize that this is just a game," said Canfield. "Marissa is like family to me and to the team, so I think we lost a little of our focus after that happened. I know I did. The girls wanted to go out there and play for Marissa after that happened."
Blassic had been ill earlier in the day, but seemed well enough to play during pre-game warm-ups, Canfield said.
Canton scored the first run a short time after play resumed when Larner's sharply-hit, two-out ground ball hit a rock and bounced high over Plymouth second baseman Brianna Giordano's head for a single. Jessica Webster then ripped a single into left field that got by the Wildcats' left-fielder for a two-base error, giving the Chiefs a 1-0 lead.
The Chiefs doubled their lead to 2-0 in the third when CarolAnn Sexauer laced an RBI double up the left-center field gap, scoring Dunleavy, who had singled two batters earlier.
Plymouth sliced its deficit in half in the top of the sixth when starting pitcher Lauren Smith walked, advanced to second on Kayla Rebain's sacrifice bunt and scored on Stacey Klonowski's two-out single.
Canton added a pair of insurance runs in its half of the sixth when Leskovitz stroked a one-out single and Katie Mattson walked. After a wild pitch moved both runners up one base, Larner stroked a single to left, scoring Leskovitz.
The second run of the inning scored when Jessica Webster's bunt was thrown away by the Plymouth pitcher.
Giordano, who finished with two hits, hit a one-out double in the top of the seventh and advanced to third on a wild pitch, but Dunleavy struck out the next two hitters to end the game.
Dunleavy and Larner both went 3-for-3 for the Chiefs.
With a runner on second, one out and Canton leading 8-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning of the nightcap, Larner robbed Stacey Klonowski of extra bases when she raced into the left-center field gap to snag a line drive.
Plymouth clean-up hitter Amanda Burnard followed with an RBI single to draw the 'Cats to within three runs, however, Dunleavy earned a save when she got Tessa Heldmeyer to flyout to right field.
"We've been playing very well defensively," Canton head coach Jim Arnold, when asked to explain why his team has gotten off to such a sizzling start. "We work on defense a lot at practice.
"Our bats have been on fire, too. The girls have been putting the ball in play, which is what we've been stressing since our first practice."
Sophomore Alyssa Boucher was the starting and winning pitcher for Canton, striking out nine and scattering nine hits over 6.1 innings. Only two of the runs Boucher allowed were earned.
"I thought Alyssa pitched extremely well," said Arnold. "She kept Plymouth's hitters off-balance. I'm proud of her for the way she took control."
Canton, which was technically the visiting team in the second game, pushed across three runs in the first and one in the second to stake Boucher to a 4-0 lead. After the Wildcats scored once in the third, Canton padded its lead to 7-1 with a three-spot in the sixth.
Plymouth cut its deficit to 7-3 in the sixth when Klonowski doubled and scored three batters later on an error. Christy Pattison then delivered a run-scoring double.
The Wildcats plated two more in the seventh on singles from Karen Rebain, Smith and Burnard, but Larner's catch prevented further damage.
Klonowski finished with three hits, including a pair of doubles.
Dunleavy registered her second straight three-hit game. She also knocked in a pair of runs.
Sexauer (3-for-4), Mattson (two RBI) and Boucher (2-for-3) also had big games at the plate for the Chiefs.