Mentor had no time to dwell on Tuesday’s non-conference loss to Madison.
The Cardinals needed a bounce-back win at Strongsville on Wednesday to maintain its hold on first place in the Greater Cleveland Conference.
Head coach Jo Bondra and her staff called on each player to put the Madison game behind them and to refocus on the next game and they responded with an 8-5 win over the Mustangs.
“The message we kind of sent before the game today as a coaching staff was you will recognize how good of a team you really are on your ability to bounce back after what happened yesterday,” Bondra said. “They came out and girls that were in slumps got some good hits for us. They came ready to play and they know when we get to conference games, we have to lock in and have short-term memories. That was our message and that’s what happened today.”
Bondra’s message was heard loudly and clearly and that was evident by the effort the Cardinals put forth throughout the game, but especially early when Allie Loparo chased down a fly ball in the bottom of the first to end a Strongsville threat.
“My outfield has been playing really well,” Bondra said. “Allie Loparo went back on a ball today and caught it early in the game and saved us a couple of runs. I let my assistant coach, Mickey Haba, handle the outfield and they have shown up for us in a lot of games and crucial situations. His main job was to turn infielders into outfielders and that’s what he’s done.”
Mentor struck first when Kylie Markowski doubled with one down in the top of the second and Sydni Bush tripled with two outs to give the Cardinals a 1-0 advantage.
Markowski had been struggling at the plate as of late and she used her first at-bat to build some confidence.
“It was awesome to be able to get a nice hit today and be driven in by Syd,” she said. “Keeping my confidence was the most important thing. Everyone has bad games and I couldn’t let that get to me. I just knew that I had to relax at the plate and trust my mechanics and ultimately it paid off.”
Strongsville tied it in the third on a triple and a wild pitch but Mentor pitcher Leah Temple led off the fourth with a single to spark a three-run rally.
Abby Haydu then reached on an error and a fielder’s choice left runners on the corner with one out. Loparo then reached on an error to give Mentor a 2-1 lead and Bush singled to make it 3-1. Madison Bregitzer singled to load the bases and Bella Carcioppolo reached on an error that pushed Mentor’s lead to 4-1.
A two-out home run in the bottom half of the inning pulled Strongsville to within 4-2 but Temple led off the fifth with a single and scored on Loparo’s sacrifice fly to again give the Cardinals a three-run cushion.
An error and two singles led to two Strongsville runs in the fifth but the Cardinals responded with three insurance runs in the sixth.
Izzy Coode started that rally with a one-out triple and Carcioppolo singled her home. Adrianna Sluga reached base on a fielder’s choice and both runners moved up on a double steal. Carcioppolo scored on a wild pitch and Sluga, who moved up to third on the same play, scored on a Temple groundout that pushed the Mentor lead to 8-4.
A walk and an error led to two Strongsville runs in the bottom of the sixth but Temple pitched out of that jam and set the Mustangs down in order in the seventh to close out the game.
Temple allowed three earned runs on five hits and fanned 13 in the win.
“She brought an energy today, we see her bring a good energy every time, but when she gets in her zone, and she struck out 13 people tonight, the team feeds off of that,” Bondra said. “She gets excited on the mound and that gets our catcher and everyone around her excited. People were able to feed off of the energy that she had on the mound tonight and that was huge for us because we were up two and we were away. That last inning, the energy she brought out there and the pitches she was throwing were spot on, so hats off to her.”
Temple, Bush, and Bregitzer each had two hits for the Cardinals, who outhit the Mustangs, 11-5.
“Kylie Markowski has had a rough couple of games and she had a nice hit today and Izzy Coode, who I have been hitting for before this point, had a good hit,” Bondra said. “I talked to coach (Erwin) Hines today and said we had to get her some at-bats so that was the decision going into today and she hit a triple in a crucial point in the game. A lot of people stepped up for us, especially those two.”
Markowski finished 1-for-4 with two runs scored but she’s swinging the bat with more confidence than she was in previous games.
“My mindset going into the box was fouling off pitches I didn’t love until I got a pitch that I could hit and hit well,” Markowski said. “Losing yesterday was tough. With a team so close, everyone was watching that game and it was one that we really wanted to win; however, in the grand scheme of things, that game didn’t matter much in regards to the conference. Our biggest goal right now is winning our conference and we knew that as a team we had to come out today and get this win to stay at No. 1. We all came into today with a new mindset and knowing that we had to play at our best because they were going to give us their best.”
Mentor hosts North on Thursday in a Strike Out Cancer game.