Corresponding photo / Robert Hayes – Ursuline senior Julia Nutter reacts after she blew a solo home run into left midfield in the lower half of the fourth inning on Monday. Nutter went 4 on 4 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in the Irish win over McDonald.

YOUNGSTOWN – As the announcer said through the PA system in Youngstown State, the longest off-season ever recorded is finally over.

Take a deep breath, finally the opportunity to shake off your nerves and face the competition again.

The last time Ursuline saw the field they took a 25-3 lead before losing to Poland in the Division II final. Likewise, McDonald had its own success during the 2019 campaign, going 18-5 and winning the first district title in program history against East Canton.

The past is gone, however, and a new season is finally coming up in the Mahoning Valley. It didn’t take long for the Fighting Irish to get back on the winning side after having failed to play for 683 days and beating the Blue Devils 10-0 in five innings.

“I wish I could explain the emotions I had today when I knew that we would play under some sun and dirt after a two-year break,” said Ursuline coach Michael Kernan after the win. “So, I think that with anticipation and excitement, I’m just glad it came.”

Corresponding photo / Robert Hayes – McDonald’s Lucia Wolford battles the plate during the third inning before jumping into right field.

The long season gave players the opportunity to improve their skills. A good example of this was Ursuline, who started pitcher Paige Ogden, who fanned seven McDonald batters over four innings and only allowed a single hit.

Ogden switched pace with a mixture of exchange and riseball, keeping the Blue Devils under the ball. The junior credited the change in technique.

“I changed my mechanics completely because it was just better for me to help my team,” she said. “I just gained a lot of speed and spin and it really helped me today.”

Ursuline took a 1-0 lead in the first round, while senior Maris Barbato slipped into home plate to score the Irish’s first run since May 16, 2019. A fourth inning of seven runs, led by a solo shot by Ursuline Senior Julia Nutter over the field wall in the center left broke the game open for the home team, but after a long hiatus, the first home run felt just a little different.

“As I run through the bases, I just think about the support I have from my team-mates and they really cheer me,” said Nutter. “When I’m at the racket’s box and fight the Count, you’re really there for me.”

Nutter, a Slippery Rock recruit, is a third of Ursuline’s senior class, joining Barbato (Toledo) and Emily Holland (Ohio Dominican), all of whom are enrolled in college for the next year.

“I think (not playing) has built a lot of excitement for this year,” said Nutter. “We didn’t play last year and then we used that, put the work in and that brought us here today.”

Nutter took two RBIs and a pair of doubles 4-on-4 and led Ursuline’s attack along with Barbato’s 2-on-4 performance. Sophomore Mia Opalick went 3-1 on an RBI single, and Junior Ayva Fedor scored a double and a run.

Holland tossed Ursuline the last inning and had a strikeout.

McDonald (0-1) Senior Bri Callow threw 4 2/3 innings and fanned out eight hits in defeat. At the start of the season, Blue Devils coach Michelle Titus expects some younger players to be strengthened.

“We have a couple of young people who would have started out as freshmen so they’re sophomore now and they’re starting now so they haven’t had a high school game,” said Titus. “But we also have a few returning postmen. We have Bri Callow Pitching and Lucia Wolford, both of whom are pretty good, consistent players.

“We have Bri McCombs, we have a couple of tenth graders who weren’t allowed to play last year, namely Alivia Morison and Kylee Koma. You just have to play each game individually and do our best every time. “

Chelsea Sudol was responsible for the Blue Devils’ only hit, a single during the fourth inning.

Ogden felt that the first win made the start of the season even better.

“Everything will be more relaxed,” she said. “This was like a highlight for the season we have been waiting for so long. I’m looking forward to the playoffs where we can really give the seniors a season that we expected and that we have prepared for. “

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