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PAINESVILLE—Thursday’s non-conference showdown between visiting Mentor and host Riverside had everything you’d expect in a game featuring two of the area’s top-ranked teams.

There were big hits, great defensive plays, and strong pitching performances.

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The difference in Riverside’s 5-4 win was sophomore catcher Delaney Keith, who hit a two-run triple in the first inning and threw out a runner trying to steal second in the top of the seventh.

“That kid, man, she’s so great behind the plate,” said Riverside coach Bill Ross. “She’s like Grace (Fisher) pitching, she’s so stone-faced. She’s a classic catcher. She comes in and punches the clock and does her job. We expect that because that’s how great she is.”

After Fisher pitched out of a jam in the top of the first, the Beavers, ranked first in the News-Herald Top of the Crop, scored three unearned runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Mentor pitcher Leah Temple recorded the first two outs of the inning but a throwing error on Amanda Kolar’s infield ground ball extended Riverside’s at-bat. Emily Lamos then was hit by a pitch and Keith’s triple cleared the bases. Keith then scored on a wild pitch to give the Beavers an early 3-0 lead.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to get,” Ross said. “The first few games of the season, we were actually down early most of the games, and the last couple, we’ve been able to get up early. I think the girls are understanding the importance of attacking pitches early in the game to get on early.”

The Cardinals, ranked third in the Top of the Crop, won a 10-inning affair against Medina the night before and Mentor coach Jo Bondra believes the quick turnaround contributed to her team’s slow start.

“It’s tough especially against a team like that,” Bondra said of falling behind early. “They’re the best team we’ll probably see, 1-9, and we knew that coming into today, so to have to battle back after battling all night long is a tough thing. They stuck in there and once we made adjustments we were right in the game.”

Allison Buttari reached on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the second and Megan Lehner singled but the Riverside rally ended when Allie Loparo caught a fly ball in left field and gunned down Buttari trying to tag up from third.

The Beavers added two runs in the fourth, both coming with two outs.

Buttari singled and moved to second on Lehner’s sacrifice bunt. Emma Kovalchuk and Kolar then hit back-to-back doubles to make it 5-0.

Mentor began its comeback in the fifth.

Bella Carcioppolo hit a two-out double and Adrianna Sluga, the hero who hit the sacrifice fly in the 10th inning on Wednesday, singled to cut Riverside’s lead to 5-1.

The Cardinals added three more runs in the sixth.

Abby Haydu doubled to start the rally and after a groundout, Loparo singled to put runners at the corners. Sydni Bush then tripled to cut Riverside’s lead to 5-3. Madison Bregitzer then laid down a bunt that scored Bush.

“You don’t come into a game expecting to shut out Mentor,” Ross said. “That’s naive for any team or coach to do. We knew they were going to make that run. We were happy we had that five-run lead. That’s exactly what we’ve been working with our girls and talking about is how are you going to handle when the team comes back and has that inning and I think our girls did a good job of bouncing back and finishing that game strong.”

Carcioppolo singled to start the Mentor seventh but Keith threw her out trying to steal second. A strikeout and fly-out ended the game.

“I think all of us came into today saying this isn’t the World Series,” Ross said. “It’s early in the season for everybody, but the reality is it’s two really good teams playing each other.”

Keith finished the game 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. Her first-inning triple and throw-out in the seventh keyed Riverside’s win. Buttari and Kolar both finished with two hits.

Fisher allowed four earned runs on eight hits and struck out eight for the Beavers.

Carcioppolo and Sluga each recorded a pair of hits for Mentor.

Temple took the loss after allowing three unearned runs on two hits in two innings. Kristin Dems pitched the final four innings. She allowed two runs on six hits.

“That’s the one thing I love about this team, we have a lot of fighters,” Bondra said. “We went to our No. 2 (pitcher) early in the game and she came out and threw really well too. Our pitchers keep giving us chances to win the game. We just have to make more adjustments offensively. I told them coming into today, we had to score 10 runs to win the game. We knew that. They hit the crap out of the ball over there. We see them again in a couple of weeks so hopefully, there’s a different outcome.”

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