PAINESVILLE—Riverside kept alive its hopes of winning at least a share of the Western Reserve Conference championship with a 6-1 win over visiting North on Wednesday.
The Beavers improved to 19-2 overall and 9-2 in league play. The Beavers remain tied with Chardon despite losing the season series to the Hilltoppers. But, to earn a share of the title, Riverside has to get through North on Monday and a two-game series with Madison while Chardon will play Brush on Friday and will complete league play with a two-game series against Mayfield.
“We actually embrace that we have the tougher path because we’re trying to get ready for the playoffs and trying to get ready to see the pitching that we know that is going to be coming at us,” said Riverside coach Bill Ross. “It’s good to play the hardest part of our conference at the end of the season.”
Riverside struck first when Emma Kovalchuk drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the first and a North error kept the inning alive. Delaney Keith then hit an RBI single with two outs to give the Beavers an early 1-0 lead.
Amanda Kolar and Emily Lamos hit back-to-back singles to lead off the fourth but North turned a double play to limit the damage that inning. Maren Kelly’s two-out RBI double pushed Riverside’s lead to 2-0.
The Beavers struck for four runs in the fourth.
Grace Fisher started the rally with a double and Megan Lehner singled to put runners at the corners. Kovalchuk then reached on an error to load the bases. Kolar hit a sacrifice fly to push the Riverside lead to 3-0 and Lamos walked to reload the bases. Keith and Molly Binkiewicz both hit RBI singles but the inning ended when Kayla Bobeczko, who pinch-ran for Keith, was thrown out at the plate.
Lehner, Keith, and Binkiewicz each recorded two hits for the Beavers.
“It’s fun when you have a lineup that it doesn’t matter where you’re at, you just expect them to either start the rally or to keep it going,” Ross said. “No matter who we put in there, we’re confident in all nine of those kids that are up there hitting each day.”
North pushed across a run in the top of the fifth when Madi Cicero singled with two outs, Adri George drew a walk, and Emily Zaleski singled to cut Riverside’s lead to 6-1.
Olivia Augusta hit a leadoff double in the top of the sixth but Riverside’s Fisher retired the next three batters to end that threat.
Fisher allowed one earned run on six hits and struck out 10.
“She was hitting her spots,” Ross said. “Grace was working hard in the rain, and that affects both pitchers when it starts coming down, but she did a great job. She kept her speed up and was hitting spots and moving the ball inside and outside. I was really proud of her today.”
Augusta was responsible for two of North’s six hits and also pitched well against a dangerous lineup.
She allowed three earned runs on 10 hits and struck out four.
“Liv did well today but our defense did not back her up, flat out,” said North coach Taylor Braddock. “We have to clean up the miscues we had physically and mentally. Liv is trusting her pitch calling and hitting her spots and she needs the defense to be behind her. Luckily, we know these girls have more in them. I expect them to bounce back next game and show who they really are as ballplayers.”
North pushed five runners into scoring position but Fisher never allowed the Rangers to string hits together.
“We talked earlier on the season about being aggressive at the plate and today we just weren’t at all,” Braddock said. “Credit to Grace Fisher for getting ahead in the count, but our girls need to do better at attacking first-pitch strikes and having a better plan at the plate.”
Riverside will travel to North on Monday to close out the two-game series.