KIRTLAND—A lineup change sparked Crestwood to an 11-5 Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division win at Kirtland on Tuesday.
Crestwood head coach LeRoy Moore juggled his batting order by moving Bella Hunter to the leadoff spot and Aimee Barnauskas to the fifth spot to provide some protection for slugger Maci Head.
Hunter went 5-for-5 against the Hornets while Barnauskas was 2-for-4 with a home run and four runs batted in.
“Initially, we had Bella Hunter protecting Maci because Bella is a good hitter, but then we were struggling at the leadoff position so we moved Bella up there to get the spark going for the game,” Moore said. “Somebody had to step up to protect Maci and Aimee came through today in a big way.”
With the win, the Red Devils improved to 4-5 overall and 4-0 in league play. Crestwood remains tied for first place with Wickliffe heading into Wednesday’s showdown between the division’s top teams.
While most of the league’s teams are just learning about the Crestwood program, Moore has a bit of an advantage in his team’s first year in the conference as he spent four years as an assistant coach at Berkshire.
“I know some of the schools we’re up against,” Moore said. “I think that’s helped quite a bit. We have some idea of the competitiveness that some of these teams have. That’s one of the reasons we made the change to the CVC, because of the competitive teams that they have.”
Kirtland challenged the Red Devils throughout the game until an error-plagued sixth inning allowed Crestwood to pull away for good.
Hunter led off the game with a single and stole second. She later scored on a Barnauskas single.
The Hornets responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Gianna DiFranco led off with a single and scored on a two-out error.
Crestwood added three more runs in the third when Hunter again singled to start the frame. She moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third, and scored on a groundout. Head then drew a walk and Barnauskas hit a home run to dead center, the deepest part of the ballpark.
DiFranco hit a one-out triple in the bottom half of the inning and scored on Bella Hostutler’s single to pull the Hornets to within 4-2 after three.
Crestwood’s Samantha Toke hit a leadoff single to spark a three-run fourth. Ally Clayman reached on an error and Hunter and Olivia Gullatta both singled in the inning.
Kirtland’s big inning came in the fifth when Hostutler reached on an error and Madison Matijevic and Gianna Cantini hit back-to-back doubles. Nikolena Samac also had an RBI hit in the inning for the Hornets, who pounded out 11 hits in the game.
“It’s fantastic,” said Kirtland coach Jamie Kamensky of her team’s second-best offensive output of the season. “It’s one of those things that as we keep growing it’s going to get better and better. At this point, it’s timely hitting and that will get better with experience. We’re getting there.”
Crestwood added four runs in the sixth and one in the seventh to seal their win.
Shelby Long singled and Hunter tripled to start the inning, which saw the Hornets commit two errors. Long drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and scored on Hunter’s fifth hit of the game.
“I’m very pleased with the girls today with what they were able to do because we came off of a rough weekend where we dropped three games,” Moore said. “I was interested to see how they would respond and they did an excellent job today. They executed everything I asked them to do.”
In addition to her big day at the plate, Hunter also picked up the pitching victory after allowing three earned runs on 10 hits and fanning eight in five innings of work. Mikayla Berquist pitched the final two innings. She allowed one hit and struck out three.
“She did well,” Moore said of Hunter. “She did what we expected her to do. She hit her spots and, maybe she ran out of a little gas going into that fifth inning, and whether she was hitting her spots or not, but they were making solid contact. We made a change and Mikayla finished the game off for her.”
Cantini threw all seven innings for the Hornets, as she has done all season. She allowed eight earned runs on 11 hits and struck out three while leading the Hornets at the plate with a 4-for-4 day.
“She’s just a stud,” Kamensky said. “Day in and day out with her resilience and stamina and she understands her role. The hardest part is we now need to start backing her up. It’s no longer just bear through it; we have to make a play to get out of it.”