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    Independence scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to notch a walk-off win over rival Cuyahoga Heights on Wednesday.

    With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 7-5 overall and moved into a first-place tie with the Red Wolves in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division.

    “After the tough loss (to Cuyahoga Heights) earlier this season, the only thing on my mind was getting it back and tonight we did that,” said Independence coach Mallory Kobak. “The girls didn’t have a choice. I told them it was do or die. They bought into that mentality and did.”

    Cuyahoga Heights stole the momentum early as the Red Wolves plated four runs in the top of the first inning.

    Sierra Wise hit a leadoff single to start the rally and after a fielder’s choice and a ground out, Kayla Vallee reached on an error that allowed Wise to score the first run of the game. Shai Moore then reached on another run-scoring error and Riley Casey and Maddie Dopson followed with back-to-back RBI singles.

    Independence responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning.

    “I challenged the girls to show me how tough they really were after the top of the first,” Kobak said. “They chose to remain confident and focused rather than playing nervous like they had in our past contest.”

    Natalie George singled to start the rally and Macey McGhee roped an RBI double to left. Ally Biondi drew a walk and McGhee scored on a Paige Priebe groundout. Cat Rieger and Keely Sears followed with RBI singles that tied the game at 4-4.

    Heights regained the lead in the third when Casey singled and scored on Georgia Kattler’s groundout, but again, Independence responded.

    This time, the Blue Devils scored four runs to take their first lead of the game.

    McGhee hit a leadoff single and Biondi followed with a home run to center.

    Priebe and Rieger followed with back-to-back singles and Sears and Mia Whieldon hit RBI singles that pushed the Independence lead to 8-5.

    It didn’t last long as the Red Wolves scored three runs in the fourth.

    Alize Reyes hit a one-out single and scored on Tessa Studniarz’s RBI single. Moore later followed with a one-out RBI single that evened the score.

    Vallee tripled to start the Heights sixth and she scored on Moore’s second RBI single of the game.

    Trailing 9-8 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Devils never lost hope.

    “Often, our players think they have to win it by themselves, which leads to over-swinging and making poor choices,” Kobak said. “In our huddle prior to the bottom of the seventh inning, our mentality was to think solid base hits and we will get the two runs we needed to score.”

    McGhee locked in and started the inning with a single to left. Priebe singled her to second with one out and Sears singled to load the bases with two down.

    That set the stage for Whieldon, who fouled off two pitches before hitting a line drive to center to end the game.

    “I was a little worried at first walking up to the plate, but once I got up there, I let that nervous feeling go,” Whieldon said of her approach before hitting the walk-off single. “One of the most important things any athlete has to remember is to stay confident in themselves and their team at all times. Staying confident in the box helped me focus on what I needed to do, which was get a base hit and that’s how I got the job done.”

    Whieldon finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBI, but it was that single to center that she’ll remember.

    “All I have to say is that I’ve never felt more alive after a game,” she said. “It was such an exciting rush of happiness, and I am so glad I got to experience it with my team. They have been nothing but supportive throughout the season and the win wouldn’t have been the same without them.”

    Sears was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate and McGhee was 3-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI. Priebe and Rieger recorded two hits and George, Alexa Johnson, and Biondi added one of Independence’s 16 hits in the win.

    The Blue Devils were at their best in the clutch.

    “Macey, Paige, Keely, and Mia all did their job in the seventh, which led us to the exciting outcome,” Kobak said. “There is no better feeling than to win a rivalry game. To say we are excited would be an understatement.”

    Biondi picked up the pitching victory as she allowed four earned runs on 14 hits.

    Reyes, Studniarz, Moore, Casey, and Dopson each recorded two hits for Cuyahoga Heights. Kattler struck out two.

    The Blue Devils and Red Wolves have shared the Metro Division title in each of the past two seasons and are on pace to do so again as Independence is 4-1 with three games left and Heights is 3-1 with four games remaining.

     

    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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