After tough losses to conference rival Chardon last week, Riverside is back on track after a pair of wins at St. Joseph Academy’s Battle on the Lake Tournament at Victory Park in North Ridgeville.
The Beavers opened the day with a 4-0 win over Olmsted Falls and closed it with a 3-2 upset of the host Jaguars, who are ranked ninth in the state of Ohio.
“It was great,” said Riverside coach Bill Ross of the back-to-back wins. “The girls coming off of last week wanted to bounce back and to go up against the ninth-ranked team in the state, that’s a great softball team over there, so it was good to get a couple of wins.”
The Beavers, who improved to 17-2, got off to a great start in the first game against Olmsted Falls.
Grace Fisher struck out three of the four batters she faced in the first inning and Megan Lehner led off the bottom half of the first with a triple. Emma Kovalchuk followed with an infield single and stole second. Delaney Keith’s two-out single gave the Beavers a 2-0 lead.
Molly Binkiewicz made it 3-0 when she led off the Riverside second with a solo home run.
“The girls were ready to hit and she just annihilated it,” Ross said of the home run to left.
For Binkiewicz, the home run couldn’t have come at a better time. Her team was reeling from its first two losses of the season.
“The past week was filled with great competition and I think that was great for our team to see,” she said. “However, it’s easy for big conference losses like that to feel really upsetting, so I think the wins we gained this weekend really helped with our overall confidence. We had to respond to adversity during these games and I think we were able to prove what an emotionally and physically strong team we are.”
The first pitch she saw missed the mark but she liked the second and drilled it over the fence in left.
“The home run felt so great off my bat,” she said. “I’ve had a couple of hits this season that were close to going out but as soon as I hit this one, I knew it was gone. The first pitch was a ball but helped me time up the pitcher and her windup. As soon as I saw that second pitch, I knew it was going to be one I could hit really well and I used that confidence I had to carry me through my at-bat. It felt really good to get that under my belt this weekend.”
Kovalchuk and Amanda Kolar hit back-to-back doubles in the third to close out the scoring.
Fisher went the distance in the circle. She allowed five hits and struck out 14 in the shutout.
“It was great,” Ross said of the bounce-back win. “That was our first game, so coming off of the loss to Chardon, it was great for Grace to go out there and she threw an absolute gem.”
Kovalchuk and Kolar both finished with two hits and Keith knocked in a team-high two runs.
The Beavers used that momentum to knock off the state-ranked Jaguars in the second game of the day.
Led by the University of Pittsburg signee Maya Johnson, St. Joseph Academy entered the game with a 13-3 record.
Johnson needed just 15 pitches to shut down the Beavers in the first inning as she fanned all three batters she faced. Riverside knocked out two singles in the second but Johnson again struck out the side to get out of the inning unscathed and three straight flyouts ended the Riverside third.
The Jaguars took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on back-to-back-to-back singles and a sacrifice fly but Riverside finally got to Johnson in the fourth.
Kolar led off the inning with a single and Lamos reached on an error. Both runners moved up a base and Kolar eventually scored on a wild pitch. Maren Kelly then hit a two-run shot with one out to give the Beavers a 3-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“The first time through, I think Maya Johnson struck out everybody,” Ross said. “She had nine strikeouts in the first three innings. She’s really good so for our girls to get into the game and let it come to them, especially Maren coming out with that home run to give us the third run, was huge.”
Lamos allowed a solo home run in the fifth and pitched out of a jam in the sixth before shutting the Jaguars down in order in the seventh to close out the win.
“Emily was fantastic today,” Ross said. “They kept getting runners on and they were very good at playing small ball and putting pressure on your defense. They did a lot of different things to put pressure on us, but I thought Emily did a great job of staying in her zone, especially that sixth inning having second and third with one out and being able to strike out the next two batters to finish the inning.”
Lamos allowed two earned runs on eight hits and struck out nine with just one walk.
“Going into facing Maya Johnson and the rest of the St. Joe’s lineup, I knew that my pitches were going to have to break a lot more than usual to keep the hitters guessing,” Lamos said. “My drop curve was moving really nicely, so I lived off of it, and then, when they were expecting outside, my inside fastball was perfect for keeping the hitters off balance.”
She gained a second wind after her team scored three runs for her in the fourth.
“Run support is everything to a pitcher, so when my team came up big with those three runs, it meant everything,” she said. “With that run support, I was able to pitch loose and not hold back, and that’s when I pitch my best.”
Kolar and Keith both finished the game with two hits and Kelly knocked in a team-high two runs.
Riverside travels to Madison on Monday.