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    Independence allowed seven runs in the first three innings and then rallied all the way back to defeat visiting Columbia on Wednesday, 9-8 in nine innings.

    Mia Whieldon was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning to seal Independence’s 12th win of the season.

    “When we gave up the seven runs in the first couple of innings, our defense really bared down and we had some great efforts going after balls to keep it in the infield or to keep them from scoring extra runs,” said Independence coach Troy Keegan. “I thought Keely Sears played her best game of the year with two diving catches to stop balls, which was huge. She also tied the game with a great base-running hustle play in the last inning.”

    Columbia’s first five batters of the game reached safely thanks to a walk, a single, an error, and back-to-back doubles that left the Raiders in the lead, 4-0.

    Ally Biondi struck out the final three batters of the inning to minimize the damage.

    Independence answered with one run in the bottom half of the inning when Macey McGhee drew a two-out walk and scored on Biondi’s RBI double.

    The Raiders added two more runs in the second on a single and a two-run homer.

    Again, the Blue Devils answered with one run in the bottom half of the frame.

    Alexa Johnson singled, Camryn Mazzola walked, and Addison Walchanowicz reached on an error that allowed Johnson to cross the plate.

    An error in the third inning paved the way for Columbia to add a run to its 7-2 lead, but the Blue Devils tightened up their defense and held the Raiders scoreless for the next five innings.

    “It was so exciting to see us come back each inning and hold the other team on defense,” Biondi said. “It was especially important because it was our senior night and a win meant a lot to us.”

    Independence scored one run in the bottom of the third, two in the fourth, and single runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to tie the game.

    Genna Gallucci reached on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the third and scored on Mazzola’s RBI single.

    McGhee was hit by a pitch with two down in the fourth and Biondi reached on an error. Sears followed with an RBI single that cut Columbia’s lead to 7-5.

    Mazzola doubled and scored on Bryanna LeRoy’s RBI single in the fifth, and McGhee tied the game in the sixth when she singled and scored on Biondi’s RBI double.

    “We all focused on doing our part to get the runs back and stringing our hits together,” Biondi said. “We kept the energy up the whole game and were there every play for each other.”

    Columbia loaded the bases in the seventh with two walks and a single but Biondi struck out the next batter, giving the Blue Devils a chance to win the game in regulation.

    Instead, they went in order and Columbia led off the eighth with a single.

    Sears saved the day when she caught a fly ball and picked off the runner returning to first for a double play.

    Columbia took an 8-7 lead in the top of the ninth.

    After Biondi retired the first two Raiders, the next reached on a dropped third strike and scored on an RBI single.

    As they did throughout the game, the Blue Devils answered.

    Sears drew a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the ninth and Gallucci was hit by a pitch. Sears then scored when Johnson reached safely on a bunt.

    The Raiders intentionally walked Mazzola to load the bases but that move backfired when Whieldon ended the game when she was hit by the first pitch she saw.

    “After they scored in the ninth inning, we just reset and tried getting on base anyway we could,” Biondi said. “We went up to bat with a positive mindset and tried to get the ball in play. It was so exciting after the walk-off. We all were so happy, and we all came together to win this game.”

    Biondi went 3-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and she knocked in two runs. She also went the distance in the circle, yielding six earned runs on 10 hits with nine strikeouts.

    Sears and Johnson both finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Mazzola was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI.

    With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 12-8 on the season and gained some valuable confidence as the postseason approaches.

    “If we don’t come back and win that game, that’s definitely something they would have been thinking about in the playoffs,” Keegan said. “This just lets us know that we’re able to overcome any deficit if we stick to our game plan and do the little things right. We pieced a lot of hits together, so it was a total team effort.”

     

     

    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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