Friday, May 24
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    Timely hitting and a strong pitching performance helped North edge visiting Riverside on Wednesday, 2-0, in what became the Western Reserve Conference championship game.

    Wednesday’s game was the continuation of a contest that began in April but was postponed due to weather. That delay left the conference champion without a crown until the Rangers sealed their win over the Beavers to clinch their first WRC title since 2015.

    “It felt good, we knew that we would be there at the end (of the season),” said North coach Matt McPeek. “We liked our chances, but you have to respect what (Riverside and Chardon) have done over the last couple of years in our conference. This was one of our main goals; they went after it and got it.”

    The game began in the bottom of the fourth inning with the score tied, 0-0.

    Maddie Russo singled with one out and Maddy Ferrari walked. After a strikeout, Russo scored on a passed ball, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead.

    “We discussed not wasting this opportunity; let’s make something happen,” McPeek said. “It’s a 0-0 game, but it was awesome (to score first). We talked about it all week of trying to get something out of that runner.”

    North threatened again in the fifth when Ashley Sykes drew a leadoff walk and Alyssa McPeek singled.

    Clara Granchi struck out the next batter and the Beavers turned a 6-4-3 double play to escape the inning trailing just 1-0.

    Riverside got a single from Emi Jeras in the sixth, but she was gunned down attempting to steal second.

    The Rangers added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.

    Bre Preston singled to start the inning and moved to second on a wild pitch. She scored on Lily Namestnik’s pinch-hit RBI single to center.

    “The way (Lily’s) been swinging the bat the last half of the season, I knew she was going to give us a chance,” McPeek said. “I knew she was going to hit the ball the other way. We noticed Annaliese Davis had kind of been living on that outer half of the plate, and Lily’s a girl who likes to step into it and go the other way with it. It was kind of a no-brainer to get her in there.”

    Emma Wilhelm doubled to start the Riverside seventh but Amanda Dobida retired the next three batters to end the game, and North’s long title drought.

    “I can’t say enough about these kids; they came with the right attitudes today, and they wanted (this win),” McPeek said of his team. “Yesterday (in a 4-3 district semifinal loss to Hoover), I feel like we didn’t have the right energy or enough energy, but when we got into the cages this afternoon, they were jacked. They were just hyper, and it was a fun energy. I had a good feeling as soon as we got here. It was all of them.”

    North’s 10 seniors played their final high school game on their home field and concluded their careers with a conference title.

    “You couldn’t ask for a better ending; it’s a storybook ending,” McPeek said. “These kids wanted it. They’ve grown up together. I’ve coached many of them since they were nine or 10. They’ve been friends that long, and they came together this year and bought in.”

    Riverside settled for second place in the WRC, but the Beavers will play for a bigger prize on Wednesday as they square off against the same Hoover team that ended North’s season in a Division I district championship game at Mentor.

    “This was good for us to get some live reps in,” said Riverside coach Bill Ross. “Obviously, it was a very meaningful game on top of that, but it was good for us to get some live reps in and get ready for tomorrow.”

    Riverside was shut out for just the second time this season.

    The Beavers hope to change that in Wednesday’s district championship game.

    “The nice thing about tomorrow is we’ll have seven innings,” Ross said. “When you get through the lineup the first time, then you start to see the pitcher a second time, and things get a little bit easier.”

    Russo led North at the plate by going 2-for-3 with a run scored, while Namestnik went 1-for-1 with an RBI.

    Preston, Brynne Smith, Taylor Bard, and McPeek also recorded hits for the Rangers.

    Dobida pitched a complete game shutout, giving up five hits with one strikeout and two walks.

    Wilhelm led Riverside in the batter’s box with her 2-for-3 performance.

    Granchi, Jeras, and Olivia Powell also had hits.

    Granchi started in the circle for the Beavers and pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings. She allowed three hits, one walk, and she struck out four. Annaliese Davis completed the game, allowing one earned run on four hits with three strikeouts and a pair of walks in 2 2/3 innings.



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