Chardon overcame an early 5-0 deficit to beat visiting North in a key Western Reserve Conference game on Tuesday, 7-6.
The Hilltoppers scored two runs in the fourth and five in the fifth in improving to 11-4 overall and 7-2 in the WRC.
“It’s incredible what’s going on with the team right now,” said Chardon coach Stewart Landies. “(This win is) huge. Every team in our conference right now is just a great softball team and every night is great competition. Every game we have been playing has been great back and forth games and close games. That kind of softball builds character.”
It’s that character the Hilltoppers have developed this season that paid off against the Rangers.
North scored five runs in the top of the second when Dori Siekaniec reached on a one-out error and Alyssa McPeek and Juliana Augusta hit back-to-back singles. Breonna Preston’s double gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead and Adri George followed the first of her two home runs.
Despite the early deficit, Landies didn’t panic.
“When the kids got down 5-0, I told them at the end of the game, I had a great feeling,” he said. “I wasn’t really worried. I probably should have been but I’ve seen the kids do it every night.”
Charon right fielder Sarah Sutton provided the Hilltoppers with a bit of a spark during North’s five-run inning when she threw out a runner trying to score.
“She threw a strike from right field and Madi Russo put the tag on her,” Landies said. “That ended up being the most important out we made.”
Chardon began its first rally with two outs in the fourth.
Russo reached on a fielder’s choice and Madison Hauser hit a two-run homer to pull the Hilltoppers to within 5-2.
The Hilltoppers added five more runs in the fifth.
Sydney Murray started the rally with a single and moved to second on Grace Legan’s single.
“Grace Legan is a freshman playing second base for us,” Landies said. “That inning in particular, she got aggressive at the plate swinging at the first strike and then she went after the next pitch and hit a line drive to left field.”
After a strikeout, Lindsey Leggett hit a two-run double to pull Chardon to within 5-4. Kayla Noerr then singled to tie the game at 5-5.
“We knew it was going to happen; we knew Lindsey was going to break out,” Landies said of Leggett. “We made a little lineup change and moved Lindsey into the two-hole and she was seeing the ball really well tonight. She hit a double and Noerr followed it up. Noerr’s bat is as hot as anyone’s in Northeast Ohio.”
Russo then hammered the third pitch she saw over the fence in the center field for a 7-5 lead.
“I was going up there looking for a simple base hit,” Russo said. “Before I stepped into the box, I told myself that I was going to hit the ball. I stayed relaxed, I saw the perfect pitch, and I put the bat to the ball. It definitely felt great off the bat but a part of me thought that Jess Dodd was going to somehow manage to grab it (in center field). What’s great about my team is we believe in each other. We help each other relax at the plate and dial in. That is what helped us big tonight and I cannot wait for what’s next.”
It’s that belief in each other that allowed the Hilltoppers to remain confident at the plate despite North’s early lead.
“We were down five but we never got too down on ourselves,” Russo said. “Obviously, it’s tough, but our team is mentally tough. We stay in games, we help each other, and we always keep each other up. We have had a tough past week and today we started out flat but we knew what we had to do and what needed to be fixed. Towards the end, we played our game and came out with a win.”
George hit a one-out home run in the sixth to pull North to within 7-6 but Noerr slammed the door on the Rangers to seal the win.
Leggett, Noerr, and Legan each had two hits for the Hilltoppers.
Noerr picked up the win after relieving Murray in the third. She allowed one earned run on two hits and struck out seven.
George led North at the plate. She was 2-for-4 with three RBI and the two home runs. Amanda Dobida pitched 4 2/3 innings. She allowed six earned runs on eight hits and fanned three. Olivia Augusta finished the game for the Rangers. She allowed one run on three hits.
“The girls played their hearts out and Amanda pitched well tonight,” said North coach Taylor Braddock. “That’s all I can ask for as a coach.
Chardon travels to Riverside on Wednesday in a battle for first place in the WRC. If Riverside wins, the Beavers will maintain its spot at the top of the standings. A Chardon victory would leave the Hilltoppers and South Rebels in a three-way tie with the Beavers.