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    INDEPENDENCE—After splitting the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division title with rival Cuyahoga Heights the past two seasons, Independence’s softball team is no longer in a sharing mood.

    The Blue Devils used Macey McGhee’s walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat the Red Wolves on Tuesday, 5-4, in the first of a two-game season series.

    “It’s important for the girls because this is their rival,” said Independence coach Troy Keegan following the win. “It was important too when we fell behind that we were able to come back. That makes for a winning team. At the beginning of the year, we probably would have folded up a little bit and got a little more nervous, but with our reps that we got down south (in Tennessee), we really came out and we were able to hit the ball in spots that we needed to hit the ball.”

    The Blue Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after scoring one run in the bottom of the first and two in the second.

    Paige Priebe hit a leadoff double in the first, moved to third on Addison Walchanowicz’s groundout, and scored on McGhee’s groundout.

    Keely Sears started the second-inning rally with a leadoff triple and Alexa Johnson singled, posting runners at first and third. Sears scored on Camryn Mazzola’s groundout and Johnson scored later in the inning on a fielder’s choice.

    The score remained that way until Cuyahoga Heights took a 4-3 lead on back-to-back home runs in the top of the fifth.

    A leadoff error and a one-out walk put two runners on base for Maddie Dopson, who sent the ball over the center field fence. Shai Moore followed with a solo shot to left.

    The Red Wolves followed up their back-to-back homers with a single and another batter who reached on an error, but Ally Biondi pitched her way out of that jam, keeping the Blue Devils within striking range.

    Cuyahoga Heights’ lead was short-lived as Priebe hit another leadoff double in the bottom half of the inning and tied the game on McGhee’s sacrifice fly.

    Despite the one-run deficit, Keegan was confident his squad could come from behind, but executing in the clutch is never a given.

    “I’m always nervous,” Keegan said. “I’ve seen us hit the ball right at people. Softball is a funny game, you can get a cheap hit once in a while or you can hit a line drive right out somebody. I was nervous the whole time because it was out of my control. It’s the girls, but they were prepared for this. You saw how they hit the ball and I couldn’t be more proud of them for coming out here and hitting when they needed to. We moved runners, we got people on base, we moved them over, and we got them in when we needed to. Once we eliminate some of these mistakes, we won’t let other teams score as many runs.”

    The Red Wolves threatened in the sixth when Camryn Barnes and Giada Presot hit back-to-back singles and Moore drew a two-out walk. Riley Casey hit a looping fly ball into short center field, but Johnson made a diving catch to end the threat.

    “Our defense needs some work, we understand that and we’re getting there, but we made some great plays out there,” Keegan said. “Our center fielder saved us. We had some others; our right fielder made a diving catch, and our left fielder made two great catches. It was a total team effort, and they deserve it.”

    After Biondi shut down the Red Wolves in the seventh, Priebe, who was 4-for-4 with three runs scored, singled to start the Independence seventh and Walchanowicz drew a walk.

    McGhee then roped the first pitch she saw down the left field line for the win.

    “I was just trying to hit it,” McGhee said. “They caught like half of my balls today, so I was just trying to hit it. It was crazy, especially against Heights too.”

    McGhee went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and three runs batted in.

    Genna Gallucci was 2-for-3 and Walchanowicz, Sears, and Johnson also had hits for the Blue Devils.

    Biondi picked up the win in the circle after allowing three earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts in a complete game.

    With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 1-0 in the CVC Metro Division.

    “We can’t take any of those other teams in our conference lightly and we have to take care of business each game,” Keegan said. “I’m sure the last game against Heights is going to be another barnburner.”

    Dopson and Casey both recorded two hits for the Red Wolves while Presot, Aly Williams, Moore, Barnes, and Skylar Sane each had one.

    Georgia Kattler took the tough-luck loss in the circle. She allowed four runs on nine hits and struck out four in seven innings.

    Cuyahoga Heights hosts Independence in Game 2 on April 25.

     

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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