Mentor clinched a share of the Greater Cleveland Conference title last week with a win over Medina, but the stingy Cardinals weren’t interested in sharing that championship so they rallied to beat visiting Strongsville on Tuesday, 9-6.
Strongsville led 2-0 and 5-3 before the Cardinals put up a four-spot in the bottom of the fourth to seal their 13th straight conference win.
“It was very exciting to see them come out and battle,” said Mentor coach Jo Bondra. “They knew what was on the line today and they got it done.”
A pregame injury forced Bondra to make a last-minute change to her starting lineup and it took Leah Temple a couple of innings to adjust to the umpire’s strike zone.
As a result, the Mustangs scored single runs in the first and second innings to take a 2-0 advantage.
“The umps were squeezing the zone and Temple was able to make some adjustments and be more successful as the game went on,” Bondra said. “Our starting second basemen got hurt minutes before game time so we were shuffling some things last minute. Once they settled in, we were able to be successful.”
Mentor began its comeback in the bottom of the second.
Abby Haydu drew a one-out walk and Sydni Bush reached on an error. Kiley Markowski made the Mustangs pay when she hit an RBI double and Peyton Trick followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Addison Siedler then reached on an error that gave Mentor a 3-2 lead.
Strongsville’s Sarah Ramaglia hit a solo shot to start the Mustang third. The Mustangs added two more runs on a single, a walk, and a double.
No lead in this game was safe as the Cardinals tied it with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Jordan Alesci singled to start the Mentor rally and Temple reached on an error to put runners at first and second with no outs. A double steal set up Haydu for an RBI opportunity and she delivered with a two-run single.
“It felt absolutely amazing,” Haydu said of her key contributions. “All of us wanted to win this for our seniors and we were able to come out on top. We always stayed positive after an error and we always picked each other up. We continued to cheer and kept our attitudes positive. During the first couple innings we started off rough, but when the score was 5-5 our energy increased and we became more involved in the game.”
Strongsville scored an unearned run in the top of the fourth but the Cardinals responded with four runs in the bottom half of the inning to close out the scoring.
Trick drew a leadoff walk and Siedler recorded her second single of the game. Alesci then drew a one-out walk to load the bases and Temple forced home a run when she walked. Adrianna Sluga hit a sacrifice fly to give Mentor a 7-6 lead and Haydu doubled home two more runs.
“As a team, we needed this win to build off of,” Haydu said. “(On Wednesday), we go into our sectional game against Boardman and need this energy to win. We will come out to the game with the same intensity as we did today.”
Temple took it from there and collected five of her 11 strikeouts in the final three innings. She allowed four earned runs on six hits.
Haydu finished the game 2-for-3 with four runs batted in and Siedler was 2-for-3. Haydu, Markowski, and Siedler each doubled in the win.
“After Temple made some adjustments, she found her groove,” Bondra said. “That’s what good pitchers do and I wouldn’t expect anything different. We rested Haydu yesterday due to injury and Addison hit for herself today due to the pregame injury. They both stepped up huge for us today as did Kiley.”
With the win, Mentor improved to 17-5 overall and 13-0 in league play with one conference game remaining.
“My staff has been incredible all year,” Bondra said. “Erwin Hines has done a phenomenal job with the pitching staff, (Mikey) Haba and (Savannah) Karako with the outfield, and (Brooklyn) Benkowski with the catchers. At the beginning of the season, I believed to have put together a solid staff from top to bottom. We feed off of each other and they were a huge part in this conference run.”
Mentor opens postseason play at Youngstown Boardman on Wednesday.