While most high school teams had their opening day wiped out by Mother Nature, the Chardon softball team opened the season with a split at The Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The Hilltoppers opened the day with a 3-2 nine-inning loss to Avonworth High School out of Pittsburgh, Pa., and then bounced back with a dominating 11-1 five-inning win over West Greene High School from Waynesburg, Pa.
“It’s just a blessing being down here and being able to play,” said Chardon coach Stewart Landies. “These kids have worked really hard and have been in the weight room doing our strength and conditioning since Dec. 1. We had some scrimmages and played some indoor games but there’s nothing like knowing you’re playing it for real and getting out there to compete for wins and losses.”
The Hilltoppers got off to a fast start in their first game of the season.
Grace Legan reached on an error in the bottom of the first inning and then scored on an Amy O’Brien single to take a 1-0 lead over Avonworth.
Back-to-back singles in the fifth followed by a one-out single allowed Avonworth to tie the game at 1-1 but O’Brien delivered a two-out RBI single that scored Sarah Sutton, who was hit by a pitch, to give the Hilltoppers a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
Avonworth manufactured the tying run in the top of the seventh on a pair of singles and a sacrifice bunt, and then with the international tie-breaker in effect, scored the game-winning run on a leadoff single in the top of the ninth.
O’Brien finished the game 3-for-4 with a double. Sidney Nagaj, Mackenzie Kilpeck, and Madison Zombory each had one hit. Jadyn Tarantino knocked in one of Chardon’s two runs.
Sydney Murray took the hard-luck loss.
She allowed just two earned runs on eight hits and struck out four in nine innings of work.
“Syd Murray threw 120 pitches in nine innings,” Landies said. “She has really dedicated herself to becoming an athlete as much as a pitcher or a softball player and it showed today. There was no let-up. She was as strong in the ninth as she was in the first. We played good defense behind her too. We didn’t have any errors.”
Chardon bounced back quickly with two runs in the top of the first and top of the second innings to take a 4-0 lead over West Greene.
The Hilltoppers added three runs in the fourth and four more in the fifth. They held West Greene to just one run in the bottom of the fifth to preserve their run-rule victory.
Chardon drew nine free passes in the game and Legan and Sarah Sutton both recorded extra-base hits. Legan doubled while Sutton hit a triple.
“They had a girl that threw pretty hard but they gave us a lot of opportunities and we had some key hits,” Landies said. “Sarah Sutton hit a triple to the right-center field fence and had three runs batted in. Abby Kolcum, our freshman shortstop, made solid contact and had a couple of RBI. Grace Legan, who is our leadoff hitter, found her way on base and scored three runs. From the top to the bottom of our lineup, everyone produced today and got into the swing of things.”
O’Brien picked up her first win of the season after allowing just one earned run on four hits with five strikeouts in four innings of work.
“She’s so hard on herself,” Landies said. “It was great to see her succeed at the plate in the first game, she had some clutch hits, and then in the second game, she had command in the circle. She was hitting her spots. She’s not going to throw 65 miles per hour and overpower you but she can throw 55 and hit her locations with good movement on the ball.”
Chardon closes out its spring break trip on Sunday against Greensburg Central Catholic out of Pittsburgh.