PAINESVILLE—There was a winner and a loser.
Errors were made, players missed signals from their coaches, and there were plenty of strikeouts and walks.
An abundance of diving and over-the-shoulder catches complemented the line drives and singular home run to center field.
Most of all, there were laughs and smiles as visiting North and host Riverside scrimmaged on Wednesday. It was the first time those two teams hit the field in nearly two years and nothing was going to prevent each player and coach from enjoying the moment.
“We’ve been super excited, not only for the seniors we have but also this younger group that we didn’t get to see last year,” said Riverside skipper Bill Ross. “We were just super excited to be able to get them all out on the field. It was great.”
North had all the fun in the first inning as the Rangers plated three runs.
“It felt great to see the girls back on the field, for both teams,” said North coach Taylor Braddock. “These athletes deserve this season after having last year taken from them and we told them to play every game like it’s their last. The girls came out of the gates strong. The first inning at-bats are what we expect from these kids. They started off strong then seemed a little timid as the game went on. Credit is due to Riverside’s pitchers for buckling down after that first inning.”
Riverside pitchers Emily Lagos and Grace Fisher did buckle down as they held the Rangers to just one run the rest of the game while the Beavers finished strong in a 10-4 victory.
“I think both teams had some nerves early, just being used to being outside after the layoff,” Ross said. “We’re very confident in our team hitting the ball and I think we’ve got a good squad this year. I thought both pitchers pitched really well, Lamos and Grace Fisher. I thought we had great at-bats. For as early as the season is, we went deep in the count and drew walks. I thought we had great plate presence when we were up there hitting. I thought the girls did a nice job of swinging at good pitches and forcing the strike zone to come to them. The first inning was a little rough but after that, it felt like a midseason form game.”
No at-bat was more impressive than sophomore catcher Delaney’ Keith’s.
She battled North freshman Amanda Dobida deep into the count. She hit a foul ball to right field that North outfielder Breonna Preston came just inches away from fielding after she laid out across the foul line.
Two pitches later, Keith launched a shot to center field that landed in the Riverside cemetery a half-mile away.
Keith had to wait an extra year for that first high school homer, but it was worth the wait.
“The pitch at the plate was the pitch I had been waiting for that whole at bat,” Keith said. “Meeting my teammates at the plate was the most rewarding feeling; happy is the word that comes to mind. We all believe each other and truly work hard with each other as a whole team. I am looking forward a great and exciting season.”
Keith, who finished 1-for-3 with three runs batted in, also had a solid day behind the plate.
“I was so disappointed that our season was canceled last year,” she said of her inspiration. “I am so excited for what we can bring to the field. I know that we are very motivated as a team to play our hardest this season and to make up for the time that we had lost.”
Emma Kovalchuk and Maren Kelly both had two hits for the Beavers. Katie Ross and Fisher both were 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI and Allison Buttari was 2-for-2.
Megan Lehner and Molly Binkiewicz also had hits for Riverside, who finished with 11 hits and just one fielding error.
The Rangers scored four runs on seven hits and they committed four errors.
“Errors are going to happen; it’s a part of the game,” Braddock said. “We can deal with a few physical errors here and there but it’s the mental errors we need to work on. Overall, the routine plays need to be made to win games; bottom line.”
Olivia Augusta pitched the first two innings for the Rangers. She allowed three runs—just one earned—on two hits and struck out one. Dobida hurled the next three innings. Five of her seven runs allowed were earned off of nine hits and she fanned two.
“Liv did well today,” Braddock said. “She came out a d hit her spots and her pitches were working. That’s what we expect out of her, she’s a bulldog on the mound. As a freshman, Amanda did well but we know she has more. It took her a little longer to settle in but she will be fine. She has a good mentor in Liv, a junior, to help her through the bumps she’ll take as a freshman in a tough (Western Reserve Conference).”
Adri George, Jess Dodd, Hailie Wilson, Augusta, Dobida, Alyssa McPeek, and Alyssa Gross all had hits for the Rangers.
Madie Cicero made a diving catch in right field and several other Rangers flashed brilliance on the defensive side as they all compete for a starting role.
“With a team of 15 girls, they’re all fighting for starting spots,” Braddock said. “As coaches, we need to see who works well with who and where. We saw a lot of good today but also we also saw a lot of what we need to work on. Overall, seeing the girls play today against great completion was so fun.”