Monday, June 17
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    KIRTLAND–Maggie Kothera’s walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning led Kirtland to a 14-13 win over visiting Crestwood on Wednesday.

    With the win, the Hornets snapped a three-game losing skid and delivered head coach Jerry Jeffrey’s first win.

    “Getting the first win is always important,” Jeffrey said. “New coach, new campaign, new year. Getting the first conference win is important. Now we’re .500 in the conference, and that’s important, too. We didn’t want to start the year 0-2 in the conference. Hopefully, we keep winning.”

    Crestwood came out swinging as leadoff hitter Erin Hallis opened the game with a double to center and she scored on Mia Gullatta’s RBI single. Gullatta later scored on Kaitlyn Huffman’s groundout.

    The Hornets responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning.

    Gianna DiFranco and Kennedy Boyd hit back-to-back singles to start the rally and Addison Fleming reached on an error that cut Crestwood’s lead to 2-1. Kothera, who finished the game 4-for-5 with two runs scored and five runs batted in, followed with a two-run single that gave Kirtland its first lead, 3-2. Grace Mastrangelo added an RBI single in the inning.

    The Red Devils went right back to work in the second with Alyssa Hallis and Erin Hallis hitting back-to-back singles to start the frame and Bella Hunter cleared the bases with her one-out home run to left field.

    Kayleigh Helm followed with a triple and she scored on Hailey Desatnik’s RBI single that gave Crestwood a 5-4 lead.

    “Over the last four games, our hitting has drastically improved,” Helm said. “The hitters that we expect to hit are doing just that, and we have a couple of others that have been struggling but came out here and broke their slump. Some other players are having some of the best seasons that they’ve had, so I think they’re all slowly starting to adjust. I think they’re feeding off that.”

    Once again, Kirtland responded to win the inning.

    Sierra Godfrey and DiFranco hit back-to-back doubles to start Kirtland’s five-run rally and Fleming singled home Godfrey. Kothera followed with a two-run double that left Kirtland in the lead, 7-6. Ava Puruczky added an RBI single and Mastrangelo scored when Moira Balcerski reached on a dropped third strike with two outs.

    The back-and-forth affair continued in the third as both teams scored three runs.

    Alyssa Hallis singled to start Crestwood’s rally and Erin Hallis reached on an error. Hunter walked to load the bases and Helm reached on an error that pulled Crestwood to within 9-7. Harper’s two-run single tied it.

    The Hornets wasted little time regaining the lead as DiFranco singled to start the bottom half of the inning and Boyd walked. Fleming followed with an RBI single, and Puruczky added an RBI single for a 12-9 Kirtland advantage.

    After Crestwood went down in order to start the fourth, DiFranco blasted a two-out solo home run to center that pushed the Kirtland lead to 13-9.

    “The passion that Gianna carries for the game, it’s incredible,” Jeffrey said of DiFranco’s home run. “I couldn’t be more proud of her home run; it’s impressive. She’s an outstanding player.”

    Neither team scored in the fifth, but Crestwood pulled to within 13-10 with a run in the sixth and then tied the game with a three-run seventh.

    Alyssa Hallis recorded an RBI single in the sixth while Harper singled home Hunter, who had singled earlier in the seventh. Helm singled and stole home, and Harper scored on an error.

    “This is two games in a row that we’ve been down in the later innings and fought back to tie it and force a walk-off situation,” said Crestwood coach Matthew Helm. “Their grit and determination are there; it’s just a matter of needing to start better than how we end (games).”

    Kirtland entered the seventh inning with 17 hits, so Jeffrey was confident the Hornets could manufacture one run to win the game.

    “I told them to relax and calm down,” Jeffrey said of the message to his team. “As the scoreboard shows, we’ve been hitting all day. I told them, ‘Don’t do anything different, don’t change your approach at the plate. See ball, hit ball, and be smart on the basepaths.’”

    Boyd reached on an error with one out and stole second. Kothera hit the first pitch she saw past the first baseman, allowing Boyd to score the winning run.

    “We’re a high-energy team, through the good and the bad,” Jeffrey said. “That’s what I like to coach off of, positive energy. We just take that and feed off it; the girls on the bench are as good as the girls in the field, and it’s just energy; it’s everywhere.”

    DiFranco matched Kothera’s 4-for-5 day at the plate. She also scored four runs and recorded one RBI. Boyd, Fleming, and Puruczky each collected two hits. Fleming and Puruczky both knocked in three runs.

    Mastrangelo went the distance for the Hornets in the circle. She allowed eight earned runs on 15 hits and struck out six.

    Despite collecting his first win at Kirtland, Jeffrey is confident his team will continue to improve.

    “We got a good group of girls here,” Jeffrey said. “I keep it simple; I just practice the basics of baseball, ‘See ball, hit the ball, field the ball, make a play,’. We work hard, from the first pitch to the last pitch.”

    Helm and Alyssa Hallis both finished the game 3-for-5 for Crestwood. Erin Hallis, Harper, and Huffman each recorded two hits, and Hunter and Harper led the Red Devils with three RBI each.

    Hunter took the loss in the circle for the Red Devils. She allowed four earned runs on eight hits and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings. Harper allowed eight earned runs on nine hits with two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.

    “We are still trying to figure things out,” Coach Helm said of how things are going early on. “Some of our games are early, like a practice, and we’re trying to figure out who fits where. What we’re looking for moving forward is locking down what our actual starting lineup will be.”

    Crestwood hosts Grand Valley on April 12 while Kirtland visits Cardinal on April 11.

     

     

     

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