Chardon pitcher Kayla Noerr suffered a hand injury in the first inning of the Hilltoppers’ 6-4 win at Madison on Monday.
Since then, Noerr has pitched 14 innings to lead the Hilltoppers to a season sweep of their Western Reserve Conference rivals highlighted by Tuesday’s 5-0 shutout of the Blue Streaks.
“Kayla is not 100-percent, her hand is still a little swollen, but she wanted the ball today,” said Chardon coach Stewart Landies. “I considered not starting her but she wanted the ball and we gave it to her. She threw some big pitches when she had to. Madison had the bases loaded twice and she came through in the clutch.”
Noerr struck out 13 and walked five in Monday’s win. She came back on Tuesday with just six strikeouts to seven walks, but she allowed just two hits in earning the shutout.
“My hand is better today but I had to rely more on my spin pitches,” Noerr said. “When I didn’t have the control or velocity I would have liked to have had, my team put up a ton of runs and played tremendous defensive.”
Madison threatened early and often but Noerr and her defense slammed the door each time.
Lexie Nicholson doubled and Alyssa Lavdis drew a walk in the top of the first inning but a heads-up play by Chardon second baseman Grace Legan ended that threat and catcher Madison Russo made another great play in the second inning to end a Blue Streaks scoring chance.
“Grace Legan had an unassisted double play in the first inning. A hard groundball was hit to her and she tagged a girl going to second and then threw it to first to get us out of that inning,” Landies said. “Madison Russo made a great play the next inning. She got out of the (catcher’s) box and got it and she fired down to one and got the double play. That was huge for us to get out of those two innings because Kayla was leaking oil a little bit. She just wasn’t her same self so we needed defense and it was there.”
Three walks loaded the bases full of Blue Streaks in the third but Noerr coaxed a ground ball out to close out that inning.
The Hilltoppers broke the scoreless tie with three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Amy O’Brien singled with one out to start the rally and Sydney Murray doubled her home to give Chardon a 1-0 lead.
“We got a runner on and Syd Murray came up clutch,” Landies said. “She crushed the ball to right-center field and Amy O’Brien scored from first base. O’Brien is one of the fastest kids on the team and I had no doubt, I was sending her.”
Sarah Sutton followed up Murray’s double with a triple to make it 2-0 and she scored on an error.
Two walks, a single, and a dropped third strike had Madison looking to score in the fifth but Noerr and the Hilltoppers made a couple of key plays to keep the shutout intact.
An error and an O’Brien RBI single increased Chardon’s lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth and the Hilltoppers closed out the scoring with a run in the sixth.
Legan drew a two-out walk and move to second on a Lindsey Leggett single. She scored on an error.
With the win, Chardon improved to 6-3 overall and 2-2 in the WRC.
“We are all so excited,” Noerr said. “We hope to keep the momentum rolling through the next two weeks with some big games coming up.”
Chardon’s success this season hinged on how quickly its young roster could adjust to the varsity game.
“It’s huge,” Landies said of the performance of his younger players. “Not having a season last year, the only question was how long was it going to take for them to get up to speed because there are six of them out there playing. We’re pretty strong top to bottom in our lineup right now. I don’t feel like we have any holes defensively and a lot of it is these young kids that are stepping up.”