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    MENTOR—North’s postseason run ended with a 4-3 loss to North Canton Hoover in a Division I district semifinal at Mentor on Monday.

    With the loss, the Rangers dropped to 19-8 on the season with one game remaining on Tuesday.

    “I have this group of nine seniors, most of them I’ve had since they were little kids,” said North coach Matt McPeek. “You don’t want it to end this way for them but unfortunately, it’s what happens.”

    North held the lead from the second through the sixth inning, but stranding base runners cost the Rangers in the end.

    The Rangers loaded the bases three times and had runners on second on third in another inning but didn’t get the clutch hits needed to plate additional runs.

    North stranded 14 baserunners through seven innings.

    “I really feel that the difference today was the big hit,” Coach McPeek said. “With runners in scoring position, we probably left 10 or more on base by not getting the big hit.”

    Following the bottom of the first which saw the Rangers give up a run on an infield error, Alyssa McPeek smacked a two-RBI double that gave North a 2-1 advantage. McPeek added another double in the sixth.

    After letting up a score, the Rangers’ defense made short work of Hoover with 1-2-3 innings in both the second and third. In the fourth, Amanda Dobida notched three of her eight strikeouts in a five-batter span.

    Dobida also contributed on offense, with one of her two singles putting McPeek on third in the top of the sixth. McPeek scored on an Aly Hall groundout, giving the Rangers a 3-1 lead.

    “I’ve probably had the most fun I’ve had in my three years at North with this group,” Coach McPeek said of this senior class. “And with six of the nine going to play at the next level, you feel like it’s probably one of the better groups you’ll see, too.”

    The bottom of the sixth was the Rangers’ undoing.

    The Vikings used a walk and back-to-back singles to load the bases.

    A wild pitch led to Hoover’s first out as Dobida tagged out the leading runner before she could cross the plate and she struck out the batter for the second out.

    Hoover then took the lead with a two-run single and an RBI double before a popout minimized the damage.

    “There’s a few things I should’ve done better,” Coach McPeek said. “But, this team’s been so resilient all year that you just kind of don’t get worried. You figure at some point we’ll catch on, and today we just didn’t.”

    The resilient Rangers showed no signs of quitting in the seventh.

    Breonna Preston led off the inning with an infield single and she moved to second on Lily Namestnik’s sacrifice bunt. Taylor Bard reached on an error and Brynne Smith singled to load the bases with one down.

    However, the elusive big hit yet again hung just past the reach of the Rangers.

    A strikeout and pop-up from the next two batters ended the game and North’s postseason run.

    “Bre hits a ball in the hole, and if she doesn’t run that out, we might go 1-2-3 that inning,” Coach McPeek said. “But the big hit kind of eluded us all day, and it did at the end, too.”

    McPeek and Dobida both went 2-for-4 at the plate with McPeek knocking in a team-high two runs. Maddie Russo, Preston, Namestnik, Bard, and Smith also had hits for the Rangers.

    Dobida took the pitching loss after she allowed two earned runs on six hits and struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings of work. Bard pitched 1/3 inning. She allowed one hit.

    With their postseason run behind them, the Rangers still have a lot to play for as they’ll play for the Western Reserve Conference title on Tuesday against Riverside.

    The game was postponed last month with the Rangers at bat in the bottom of the fourth inning of a 0-0 game.

    Riverside and North both are 8-1 in the WRC, so the winner takes home the conference title.

     

     

     

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