Kirtland faced a must-win situation in Monday’s 11-8 win over visiting Wickliffe.
With the win, the Hornets remained one game behind Crestwood for first place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division standings. Kirtland hosts Crestwood in the league finale for both teams on May 20.
“This win is huge,” said Kirtland coach Jamie Kamensky. “It was one of our goals to compete for a title and we’re knocking at the door. We have to keep our focus and keep driving for it.”
Kirtland jumped out to an early 5-0 lead thanks to a three-run first inning and a two-run second.
Bella Hostutler and Madison Matijevic both singled and Kennedy Boyd was hit by a pitch to load the bases in the first. Gianna Cantini followed with a two-run double and Gianna DiFranco hit an RBI single.
Ava Puruczky singled to lead off the Kirtland second. Boyd and Matijevic followed with one-out singles and Cantini hit her second two-run double in as many innings.
Wickliffe scored two runs on one hit in the top of the third but Kirtland responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning on back-to-back singles by Grace Mastrangelo and Puruczky that pushed the Kirtland lead to 6-2.
The Blue Devils went on to score two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings but Kirtland responded each time. The Hornets scored one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Kirtland added a run in the sixth and then held off the Blue Devils in the seventh.
Wickliffe scored two runs and had two runners in scoring position before the Hornets recorded the final two outs of the game.
“We had a lot of adversity tonight,” Kamensky said. “The fact that every one of the kids in the lineup had at least one hit is key to that success. We need this pressure to perform in the playoffs coming up. So, even though it gives me an anxiety attack, it’s settling knowing we can perform when we need to.”
Matijevic and Cantini both finished the game 4-for-4. Cantini knocked in a team-high five runs and also struck out five in recording the pitching victory.
Hostutler recorded three hits and Nikolena Samac, Mastrangelo, and Puruczky each had two hits for the Hornets, who improved to 8-9 overall and 6-2 in the CVC Valley Division.
“Our mentality is singles win ball games and give it to the next girl,” Kamensky said. “This attitude has focused and grounded us. Hitting is going to be key moving forward.”
Abby Schneider led Wickliffe with three hits and Emma McCandlish had two.
Kirtland hosts Lakeside on Wednesday.