Wednesday, May 22
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    EASTLAKE—North’s softball players weren’t focused on avenging last season’s postseason loss to Mentor, but the Rangers hadn’t exactly forgotten about it either.

    That 4-2 loss inspired the Rangers in their 7-4 win over the visiting Cardinals in a Division I sectional championship game at North on Wednesday.

    “Last year, we didn’t play well,” said North coach Matt McPeek. “We didn’t play good defense, we didn’t make adjustments, and today, we made adjustments. We weren’t going to let (Mentor pitcher Addison Belviso) out with the riseball. We’ve seen that, it’s kind of her sneaky fastball. Coach (Jo) Bondra hides her from us, but you do your homework like Coach Jo does too, and we knew she was going to try to get us out on that. We just said we were going to lay off it, and the umpire had a low zone, which helped make it a lot easier to lay off.”

    Mentor got off to a fast start thanks to Ireland Rainey’s two-out double in the top of the first inning. Maggie Haydu followed with an RBI single that gave the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead.

    North’s Ashley Sykes singled to start the Ranger half of the first, but the Cardinals turned a double play—the first of several key defensive plays they made in the game.

    Amanda Dobida then drew a two-out walk and courtesy runner Katie Bucy moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Aly Hall’s RBI single.

    The score remained that way until the bottom of the fourth when the Rangers plated four runs for a 5-1 lead.

    Maddie Russo was hit by a pitch with one out and Bre Preston doubled her home. Lily Namestnik followed with an RBI double, and she scored on Brynne Smith’s two-out RBI single. Sykes added a single, and Alyssa McPeek singled home Smith for a 5-1 lead.

    The Cardinals pulled to within 5-4 with a three-run sixth.

    Rainey reached on an error and Haydu followed with a one-out single. After a groundout, Izzy Coode drew a walk to load the bases and Kathryn Bouffard cleared them with her three-run double.

    North added a pair of insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning.

    Maddy Ferrari drew a one-out walk, Sykes singled with two down, and McPeek walked to load the bases. Dobida and Hall drew back-to-back walks off Haydu, who relieved Belviso to start the inning.

    Mentor didn’t go down without a fight.

    The Cardinals brought the tying run to the plate thanks to singles by Gabi Dadante and Mak Kobetitsch, but Dobida coaxed a pair of flyouts to end the game.

    Ferrari made a catch in left field with her glove extended over the fence along foul territory to rob Rainey of an opportunity to knock in a run or two.

    Dobida controlled the game for the most part.

    She allowed one earned run on eight hits and fanned eight in the complete-game victory.

    “Amanda is very knowledgeable of the game,” Coach McPeek said. “She’s very aware of what’s going on up and down the lineup on both sides. It paid off huge for us to have her out there and have her not lose her cool. She could have caved in that four-run inning, and that would have been bad. She fought back and got out of it, and we got her a couple of extra runs in the last inning.”

    Sykes led the Rangers at the plate as she finished 3-for-4 with a run scored. McPeek, Hall, Russo, Preston, Namestnik, Ferrari, and Smith each had hits for the Rangers, who advanced to play North Canton Hoover in a district semifinal at Mentor on Monday.

    Before the Rangers play that game, they’ll compete for the conference title in a game against Riverside on Thursday, and then play rival South under the lights at Todd Field on Friday.

    “We had to get that first step,” Coach McPeek said. “We’ve been talking about this for almost a week, taking care of one thing at a time.”

    Belviso took the loss for Mentor after allowing five earned runs on eight hits in four innings. Haydu allowed two runs on two hits and struck out one in two innings of work.

    Bouffard went 3-for-3 for the Cardinals with two doubles and three runs batted in. Haydu was 2-for-3 and Kobetitsch, Rainey, and Dadante also had hits.

    “We got down early but they stayed positive and battled back,” Bondra said. “We were right where we wanted to be in the order but the left fielder had a great catch over the fence. She definitely took that right away from Ireland, and Ireland is the person we wanted up in that situation.”

    Despite the loss ending Mentor’s postseason run, the Cardinals still have a lot to play for as they can clinch the Greater Cleveland Conference title outright with a win over Brunswick on Thursday.

    “They battled all year, “Bondra said. “We came in here to North’s house and had a plan and tried to execute it. We still have the conference to play for, so quick turnaround and we’ve got to be back ready to go so we can secure the GCC.”




    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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