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WILLOUGHBY—Riverside’s softball team learned the value of persistence in a 4-3 nine-inning win over host South in a key Western Reserve Conference game on Friday.

The Beavers trailed 3-0 early and struck out 16 times as a team but still managed to pull out a win in a matchup featuring the top two teams in the News-Herald Top of the Crop.

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“We haven’t seen a kid throwing this fast in a couple of weeks,” said Riverside coach Bill Ross. “We knew there was going to be some adjustments and we know that too going into next week because there’s going to be some adjustments for us to catch up on the speed. I think our girls, we even talked about that afterward, and they stayed together and stayed in the game. I’m super proud of them. Every time they came up, even if they struck out their last time, they were ready for the next one.”

South, ranked second in the Top of the Crop, broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the bottom of the third.

Ryen Gialamas and Ryan Wallace hit back-to-back singles and Grace Woodcock hit a double off the fence in center to make it 1-0. Makenna Matriano then singled home Wallace. Cathrine Heckman was intentionally walked to load the bases and Alyssa Tekavec drew a two-out walk to force home another run.

Riverside pitcher Grace Fisher shut out the Rebels over the next six innings to pick up the pitching victory. She allowed three earned runs on six hits and struck out 14.

The Beavers tied the game with three runs in the top of the fifth.

Fisher drew a leadoff walk and was replaced on the base paths by Allison Buttari, who moved to second on a passed ball. Emma Kovalchuk then hit a one-out double to pull the Beavers to within 3-1.

Amanda Kolar hit the third pitch she saw over the fence in center field to tie the game at 3-3.

“That was huge, drawing the walk first and then getting to second on the passed ball and just getting a runner into scoring position,” Ross said. “Emma has been hitting great for us all year. She’s been one of our top hitters. Again, showing all these girls, find the middle of the ball, sit on your pitches and avoid the high stuff and she did a great job of getting that double in and then AK coming in with the big blast.”

Both teams had runners on base in the sixth and seventh innings but couldn’t push across the winning run.

Riverside was down to its final out in the ninth when Emily Lamos stepped into the box and hit the first pitch she saw over the right-field fence for a 4-3 lead.

Fisher retired the Rebels in order in the ninth to seal Riverside’s 15th straight win.

“This was a great game,” Ross said. “I was talking with (South) Coach (Matt) Burke in the ninth inning and we both said we expected nothing less in this game.”

South’s Kelly struck out at least two Beavers in an inning in four of the first five innings. The Beavers made the necessary adjustments and put the ball in play more often during the final four innings.

“They made them,” Ross said of the batting adjustments. “We talked about it and what to adjust and they made the adjustments. I give them all the credit. I give Emily Kelly credit too. She was bringing it out there. The second time through, third time through, we started to adjust even better and that’s when we saw the best success.”

Riverside improved to 15-0 on the year and is alone in first place of the WRC with a 7-0 mark. South dropped to 9-4, 6-1.

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