Chardon had little trouble beating Shaker Heights in a regular season doubleheader last month but that wasn’t the case in Wednesday’s Division I sectional semifinal.
The Hilltoppers, who beat the Red Raiders, 20-2 and 10-0 on April 21, committed seven errors in the postseason opener but survived and advanced to Thursday’s sectional championship game with an 11-8 victory at Munson Park.
“I believe today was an eye-opener that we can’t take anything lightly and we need to play our best,” said Chardon outfielder/pitcher Kayla Preziuso. “I do think we will come back (on Thursday) ready to play.”
Preziuso, who batted leadoff for the first time, finished the game 3-for-4 with four runs batted in and relieved starter Olivia Adkins in the seventh and struck out three of the four batters she faced to seal Chardon’s win.
“When coach told me to go warm up I was excited,” Preziuso said. “They were hitting Liv Adkins so I knew they wouldn’t be too far behind my ball. I came in knowing that this was the final inning and where everything went down. My team was relying on me to finish out the game and I’m happy I didn’t let them down.”
Olivia Organiscak finished with two hits for the Hilltoppers, who will play at Mentor on Thursday for the sectional title.
Adkins pitched four no-hit innings before the Red Raiders six runs on just three hits in the top of the fifth to tie it. Two errors contributed to the big inning.
“I kept my composure by focusing on the fundamentals,” Adkins said. “I focused on a long stride and hitting my spots. I knew I had to execute my pitches and do my job.”
Chardon responded with five runs in the bottom half of the inning to hold off the Red Raiders, who added two more in the sixth.
“I am very proud of my team for coming back,” Adkins said. “We didn’t expect Shaker to come back like that. We didn’t let it get to us and kept hitting and fielding the ball cleanly. I am very proud of how we finished the game and that we can move on in playoffs.”