Three insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning sealed Chardon’s 6-4 win at Madison in a key Western Reserve Conference showdown on Monday.
With the win, the Hilltoppers improved to 5-3 overall and snapped a three-game skid.
“That was really big, especially for these kids because of the confidence that they gained last Thursday against South,” said Chardon coach Stewart Landies. “We lost the game but they walked off the field feeling OK. Tonight, it was just a great game. This is why you love coaching. This was a great game to be sitting on the bucket. It was fun to see the smiles on the faces on the bus ride home.”
Chardon jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second thanks to a Madison Hauser solo home run. Amy O’Brien doubled and Audrey Manary walked in the inning but Madison pitcher Alyssa Lavdis pitched out of that jam.
Madison took a 2-1 lead in the third.
Lavdis started the rally with a one-out single and Halle Blackford and Emili Blackie followed with back-to-back singles.
Chardon manufactured a pair of runs in the fifth inning when Grace Legan reached on a one-out error.
Legan then got caught up in a rundown between first and second base and somehow managed to end up on third base.
“Grace Legan was an unsung hero,” Landies said. “It doesn’t show in the scorebook but she got into a rundown intentionally on first base on a delayed steal. Credit to Madison, they played the rundown very well. They probably transferred the ball six or seven times and Grace beat the throw to second and could see out of her eye that there was no one standing on third. She hit second and kept going to third. They threw the ball to second behind her as she was running to third base.”
Kayla Noerr then hit a two-out double and scored on an error to give the Hilltoppers a 3-2 lead.
Jadyn Tarantino led off the Chardon seventh with a triple and scored on Legan’s single to push the lead to 4-2.
“I told the girls, ‘(Lavdis) throws the ball so hard, just get the bat on the ball and it’s going to go,’” Landies said. “She did and it went. She got to third base and her smile was ear to ear.”
Tarantino struck out looking in the fifth inning, her first look at Lavdis.
She made the necessary adjustments and came up with a clutch hit to start a three-run rally.
“Playing a good team like Madison and heading into the last inning with only a one run lead, I was very excited to hit the triple, knowing my teammates would hit me home,” Tarantino said. “I was looking to put the ball in play and fortunately I got a pitch I could drive to right-center. It gives me the confidence in the future that I’ll be able to help my team in pressure situations.”
Lindsey Leggett then executed a sacrifice bunt that allowed Legan to advance to third. Noerr, Madison Russo, and Hauser then hit back-to-back-to-back singles to push Chardon’s lead to 6-2.
Those insurance runs proved necessary after what transpired in the bottom of the seventh.
Chloe Wakim drew a leadoff walk and Lavdis, one of the area’s top hitters, stepped to the plate with two outs.
She hit the first pitch she saw over the fence in left field.
“It’s a cliché to say it, but I wasn’t worried about it,” Landies said of the Madison seventh-inning rally. “My coaches and I talked about it and we weren’t willing to put the tying run on base. We wanted to make an attempt to go get her and it was a conscious effort. If she hits it over, we’ve still got two outs and we’re going to be alright. Sure enough, she drove it. Lavdis is one of the best ballplayers that I’ve watched play softball live. I have a lot of respect for her because she’s a really good ballplayer.”
Noerr coaxed a groundout out of the next batter to seal Chardon’s win.
Hauser and Noerr both finished with two hits and two runs batted in.
Noerr also picked up the pitching victory after allowing four earned runs on five hits. She struck out 13 in the game, a remarkable feat considering she was hit by a pitch on her throwing hand in the first inning.
“She did pitch well,” Landies said. “She got hit on her throwing hand in her first at-bat. Her pinky and knuckle were very swollen but she gutted it out tonight. Her speed was down but she was moving the ball around and hitting spots. I was really proud of her.”
Chardon hosts Madison in the season finale on Tuesday.