‘Crazy arm’ has Brecksville on crazy streak, Elyria Catholic’s Annika Bredel takes home run record: Prebis Invitational takeaways

LaGRANGE, Ohio — Going back about eight years, when Brecksville-Broadview Heights teammates Grace O’Malley and Brooklyn Kimball played together on a youth softball team, O’Malley called Kimball, “Crazy Arm.”

Kimball lived up to that nickname Saturday in the Bees’ 7-1 win vs. state-ranked North Ridgeville at the Prebis Memorial Invitational in LaGrange. The junior catcher jumped out of her crouched position and darted the softball to second base in the fifth inning, catching speedy No. 9 hitter Daylan Baker on a steal attempt toward second base.

That’s nothing new for Kimball.

“Every time there’s a runner on, I know Brooklyn is excited to eat them up,” O’Malley said.

Kimball played all three games behind the plate for Brecksville (19-2), which swept through its three games at the Prebis Invitational by beating Mount Vernon and Canfield South Range on the way to what is now a 17-game winning streak. The victory vs. North Ridgeville (17-2), which entered the week ranked fifth in the state coaches’ poll for Division I, provided the exclamation point to the weekend.

“I’m a little sore. I’m tired, but I’m used to it,” Kimball said. “That’s my job.”

She ranks second on the Bees in putouts with 68 for a team that will find out its Division I postseason path Sunday with the district tournament draw. While O’Malley (a Toledo commit) and center fielder Chelsea Mack — the leadoff hitter and Kentucky recruit — gather most of the attention, those two are among only three seniors on coach Rex Mack’s roster.

Not only do they have a junior behind the plate, but ace pitcher Anna Wise is just a sophomore. She had seven strikeouts and gave up just two hits vs. the Rangers.

“When Anna’s on, she’s on, and Brooklyn is a concrete wall back there,” O’Malley said. “When they’re both doing their jobs, it has so much confidence in the defense.”

Their play during the two day softball showcase served as one of many highlights. Here’s a few more:

A day after opening the Prebis with a 10-3 victory against host Keystone, Walsh Jesuit secured two more victories.

First, the Warriors took down defending OHSAA Division I state champion Massillon Perry with a 12-1 win. Then, they held off Perry from Lake County while giving sophomore standout Natalie Susa some rest and freshman McKayla McGee a chance to pitch.

“We were tested,” Walsh coach Tony Scibelli said. “We love it.”

Susa struck out 13 on Friday vs. Keystone, the defending state champion in Division II.

Yes, that’s two defending champions Walsh Jesuit (10-2) took down in less than 24 hours. The Warriors have won six straight since a 6-0 loss to North Canton Hoover.

“We’ve been hitting the ball very well the last three or four games,” Scibelli said. “We even hit it well here, too.”

Keystone’s Lily Cassell and Co. could exhale a bit, following the Wildcats’ 9-3 win vs. Massillon Tuslaw to close their weekend.

They began the day with a 14-2 loss to Holland Springfield, their third loss this season by at least 10 runs. The win halted a two-game skid for Keystone (15-5), which had to replace its top three hitters from last year but still has a majority of its starters back from last season.

That includes Cassell, who entered the weekend with a 3.15 earned-run average and 122 strikeouts.

“To leave on a win is such a good feeling, especially after the two tough games we had,” Cassell said. “The first two games were definitely learning experiences. We didn’t come with as much energy, and you can tell when we have energy we all come together and hit.”

Cassell homered against Tuslaw, following a bomb by sophomore Jalyn Owca earlier in the day. Junior Bella Minisall hit one Friday, but the Wildcats pieced together 13 hits in their final performance of the weekend.

Despite having her sophomore season canceled in 2020, Elyria Catholic senior shortstop Annika Bredel is Lorain County’s all-time leader in home runs.

She took that mantle in a late at-bat during the Panthers’ 6-1 win against Perry. Bredel had four hits, including a double and two triples. She missed the cycle only by running out her second triple against the Pirates, which followed her record home run.

She now has 35 in her career, passing Keystone graduate Sammie Stefan, who is now a college senior at Maryland.

That holds meaning to first-year Elyria Catholic coach Jim Piazza, who oversaw Stefan’s run at Keystone.

“And then to have it happen in LaGrange, I think that’s a pretty cool thing to have it all kind of come full circle,” said Piazza, who organized much of the Prebis Invitational since its inception.

The two-day event is now held at two sites, including Wellington.

North Ridgeville shook its loss to Brecksville by turning into one of its aces. Coach Amy McMillan has two of them in senior Katie Barnhart and junior Autumn Behlke, who led the Rangers’ 4-2 win against Mount Vernon to close their Saturday afternoon.

“We learned how to bounce back this week and not let one game define us,” Behlke said.

Her team is in the driver’s seat of the Southwestern Conference title race with Amherst, which plays two games this upcoming week against Avon. North Ridgeville already swept Avon, but split with Amherst.

Both of those SWC teams had their ups and downs at the Prebis Invitational. Amherst dropped all three of its games before this week’s showdowns, but the Comets rallied to push Whitehouse Anthony Wayne — the state’s No. 1-ranked team in Division I — before a 15-12 loss.

Contact sports reporter Matt Goul on Twitter (@mjoul) or email (mgoul@cleveland.com).

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