Monday, June 17
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    North kicked off the 2024 season on Tuesday with a pair of wins to jumpstart its spring trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

    The Rangers opened the day with a 4-2 win over James Madison and closed it with a 6-2 extra-inning win over Fort LeBoeuf. James Madison finished the 2023 season with a 25-3 record and was the Class 6 state runner-up. Fort LeBoeuf won 20 games in Pennsylvania last spring.

    “It’s going well,” said North coach Matt McPeek of his team’s spring trip. “Our pitching was really solid today, obviously.”

    North’s pitching staff took a hit when Jenna Hutchinson was hit by a pitch and couldn’t play on Tuesday.

    That forced McPeek to rely on Amanda Dobida and Taylor Bard to go the distance in their respective outings.

    “I went down to two pitchers today and I had a doubleheader, and I was like, ‘Oh no,’” McPeek said. “They both went the distance and really battled. I don’t think either one of them had their best stuff, so we’re happy to see there’s room for improvement and that they could shut another team down.”

    Dobida allowed two earned runs on four hits and fanned six in the win over James Madison.

    Dobida, Bre Preston, and Maddie Russo each went 2-for-3 at the plate. Preston doubled and tripled and knocked in two runs. Russo had one RBI and Dobida scored a run.

    Aly Hall and Brynne Smith each recorded one hit in the win.

    The Rangers took a 1-0 lead over Fort LeBoeuf in the third inning when Smith, Ashley Sykes, and Preston drew back-to-back-to-back one-out walks and Dobida singled home Sykes.

    Fort LeBoeuf tied it in the bottom of the fifth on a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly.

    The score remained that way until the Rangers put up five runs in the top of the eighth.

    Thanks to the international tiebreaker, Sykes was placed on second base to start the inning and scored on Dobida’s one-out single. After Dobida was thrown out trying to advance to second, Hall reached on a fielder’s choice and Bard singled to put runners at first and second.

    Lily Namestnik walked to load the bases and Russo hit a grand slam to center field.

    “Coach Matt always tells us to know what you want when you go up to bat,” Russo said. “Using that with today’s games, I went up to the plate, swinging and attacking each ball. Going into my last at-bat, knowing we were only up by one and with two outs, I knew it was a big moment. I knew I needed to just relax and work the count until I got my pitch.”

    Fort LeBoeuf scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning, but Bard limited the damage.

    She allowed just one earned run on seven hits and struck out eight in an eight-inning complete-game victory.

    “I honestly thought the first team that we played was a lot better than the second team, but we just couldn’t shake them,” McPeek said of Fort LeBoeuf. “They had a good pitcher and it kept us off balance. She spun the ball really well and it had a nice rise that was a little quicker than it looked like it was. She did a good job keeping us in check, and then finally, we kept getting chances and we blew a couple chances, but it worked out thanks in part to Maddie Russo’s big day.”

    Russo finished the game 3-for-4 with four RBI and a run scored. Dobida was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Bard was 1-for-4.

    On the day, Russo finished 5-for-7 with five RBI and a run scored.

    “It was a great first day all around,” Russo said. “Pitching and hitting was great and everyone did what they needed to do. Coming into the games today with the positive energy from yesterday’s game really helped everyone. Today, we all came ready to play knowing the competition was tough. Personally, I went into today’s game with a mindset to just have fun and be there for my teammates.”

    After beating the Virginia Class 6 state runner-up, the Rangers get a crack at the Class 6 state champion on Wednesday when they play McLean, the team that beat James Madison in the state championship game last spring, 2-1.

    “We went from the state championship game losers to the state champion winners in the state of Virginia,” McPeek said. “We’re in for a battle.”

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, 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 IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com 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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