CANFIELD - While it might not be easy to say goodbye, sometimes it's for the best.
Several of the top senior softball players in the area met in a doubleheader matchup of All Stars from Mahoning and Trumbull Counties on Tuesday at McCune Field. For many, it was sad knowing their high school careers were coming to an end, but for others it was a time to look ahead with hopeful anticipation.
"Honestly, no," Newton Falls pitcher Bailey Shade replied when asked if she felt a sense of sadness. "I'm ready for something new. I'm ready for new things in my life."
Tribune Chronicle / Allie Vugrincic
Champion’s Sierra Blackson, left, Newton Falls’ Bailey Shade, center, and Girard’s Kylie Kulon give high fives during the annual Trumbull-Mahoning County Senior All-Star Classic.
The two games were more about enjoying camaraderie of a different kind and simply having some fun after the serious nature of the season and tournaments. A Viking from LaBrae could be a teammate with a Tiger from Newton Falls. It was a chance for a Maplewood Rocket to share some moments with a rival Bristol Panther.
"It was fun," said Hollie Shreves of the Mathews Mustangs. "It was very easy-going and very relaxed. It was nice after such an abrupt loss in our high school season to come back and get your cleats out and play in the dirt again."
For the three Mustangs on Trumbull's roster in the second game - Shreves, Jessica Marsico and Tabby Granelly - the game provided an opportunity to put the loss to Colonel Crawford in a Division IV regional final further behind them.
"It was really tough," Shreves said. "I wasn't mentally prepared for it to be done. It's not that I thought we were going to go in and win that game, but it was very heart-breaking. We wanted to make it back to Akron (for the state tournament) so bad."
The Mahoning County All Stars were victorious in both games. Darrian Yanek of South Range lined a two-run double to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Mahoning County a 4-3 win in the opener. Paije Kiraly of Jackson-Milton staged a strong pitching performance to lead Mahoning County to a 3-1 win in the second game.
Many of the players will continue their softball careers at colleges and universities. Others plan to concentrate solely on education on the next level.
Shade will continue on as a player at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. Shreves plans to play at Thiel College.
"I'm very excited for college and college softball," Shreves said. "Some of the best memories I've made in my life are on the softball field with the other girls. It's hard, but I'm definitely excited to move on."
Sierra Blackson of Champion will take a ton of great memories with her to Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. At the top of the list has to be winning back-to-back Division III state championships in her sophomore and junior seasons.
"It was definitely an experience that I will always remember," Blackson said.
Blackson echoed Shade's sentiments about looking forward to the next adventure in life.
"It's time (to move on)," Blackson said. "I loved high school, but I'm ready to play college ball and step up my competition and step up my game."
The last player had cleared out of Trumbull's dugout following the second game. Standing by himself was Mathews coach Jim Nicula. No one knows more than him the emotion each player feels as she concludes her high school career.
"So many of these girls play travel ball together," Nicula said. "Even though we have our high school rivalries against each other, a lot of these girls play on the same teams and they do build enormous relationships during the course of the season. It's a culmination of that and they know it's ending and they're going to be moving on in life."