MUNSON—Amy O’Brien delivered in the clutch for the Chardon Hilltoppers in a 7-5 win over visiting Hudson in a Division I sectional final on Wednesday.
O’Brien moved from center field to the pitching circle with the bases loaded and Hudson leading 5-4 in the sixth inning and pitched her way out of that jam. She then delivered a two-run single in the bottom half of the inning to give the Hilltoppers the lead for good.
“We want Amy out in centerfield because she is such an asset out there,” said Chardon coach Stewart Landies. “But, it seems like every time we call on her and bring her in, it’s in a pinch or it’s in jam, and she handles that. She steps up and she does it and she did it again today.”
Hudson scored two runs on one hit in the top of the first inning as Sydney Murray walked two batters and the Hilltoppers committed an error.
Chardon threatened in the bottom half of the inning with back-to-back two-out singles from O’Brien and Sarah Sutton but a fly out to left field ended the inning.
A two-out rally led to two Chardon runs in the second.
Josie LoCoco reached on an error and Jadyn Tarantino singled. Nicole Krakora then hit a two-run double to tie the game.
It remained that way until the fourth when Hudson once again benefited from an error.
A fielding error put the leadoff batter on first but Sydney Murray struck out the next two batters. A walk and a single gave the Explorers a 3-2 lead and another error pushed across a fourth run.
“We could have lost that game 10 different ways but the girls gutted it out,” Landies said. “Sometimes you don’t win pretty and this one wasn’t pretty, but the scoreboard still says it’s a win and we’re playing on Monday. We get that chance and that’s all we want.”
LoCoco reached on an error to start the Chardon fourth and Tarantino drew a walk. Krakora followed with an RBI single to cut Hudson’s lead to 4-3 and O’Brien hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.
Hudson had the chance to pull away from the Hilltoppers in the sixth but O’Brien saved the day.
The leadoff batter drew a walk and after two groundouts the Explorers led 5-4. A single and two walks loaded the bases with two outs.
That’s when O’Brien relieved Murray and coaxed a pop out from the next batter to end the inning.
Tarantino singled to start Chardon’s sixth-inning rally and Krakora was hit by a pitch to put two runners on with no outs. Nagaj followed with a single to load the bases and O’Brien roped a single down the left-field line. Tarantino and Nagaj both scored to give Chardon a 6-5 lead and Sutton hit an RBI single to close out the scoring.
O’Brien struck out two batters in 1 1/3 scoreless innings of work. Murray allowed one earned run on four hits and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings.
Offensively, Sutton was 3-for-4, and Krakora, O’Brien, and Tarantino each recorded two hits for the Toppers.
“The top six or seven in our lineup are really hitting the ball well,” Landies said. “It all comes down to maturity and approach the bigger the games get. Today, they were a little bit flat and you just can’t do that against a team like that. Hudson is a good ball club and we knew they were going to be tough. It took us a little bit too long to hit our stride and that can’t happen again. Hopefully, we’ll grow from it.”
With the win, No. 11 Chardon improved to 13-8 and advanced to play second-seeded North Canton Hoover in a district semifinal at Mentor on Monday.