Friday, June 14, 2024

Cuyahoga Heights holds off rival Independence

CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS—With their backs against the wall, the Cuyahoga Heights Red Wolves held off rival Independence on Monday in a key Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division showdown at Bacci Park.

With a win, Independence would have clinched the league title after run-ruling the Red Wolves last month. Instead, Cuyahoga Heights pulled off an 11-10 upset win and the two teams are headed for back-to-back co-championships.

“It’s unbelievable because of what these girls have gone through,” said Cuyahoga Heights coach Kyle Manfredonia. “It’s been an up and down season and after last year, the expectations were really high and we’re not meeting them right now. We came off of a three-game losing streak this weekend and came up against a great team that is well-coached and they did what we’ve always known they could do. They performed out here today and to have the opportunity to be co-champs again and ruin their day, it makes it so sweet.”

Cuyahoga Heights jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Sierra Wise drew a leadoff walk and Alize Reyes singled. Shai Moore then delivered a clutch two-run single with two outs in the inning.

Independence trimmed its lead in the second when Macey McGhee singled and Tiffani Niro doubled to put runners on second and third. Keely Sears followed with an RBI single.

The Red Wolves added two more in the bottom half of the inning.

Kaitey Calvey was hit by a pitch with one out and Wise hit a two-out single to put runners at the corners. Reyes and Tessa Studniarz hit back-to-back RBI singles to push the Heights lead to 4-1.

Independence responded with a five-run third.

Cat Rieger started the rally with a one-out single and Ashleigh Porter drew a walk and both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. Anna Weber hit into a fielder’s choice but Rieger beat the throw to the plate to cut the Heights lead to 4-2.

Ally Biondi hit an RBI single and McGhee followed with her second hit of the game. Niro then cleared the bases with a triple that gave Independence its first lead, 6-4.

Three weeks ago, when Independence beat Heights, 12-2, the Red Wolves failed to respond to Independence’s big innings. That wasn’t the case on Monday.

“That was all them,” Manfredonia said. “I just kept saying what I normally say but they brought their energy today. They all really believed in themselves and played with heart from the beginning. They played from start to finish.”

Independence tacked on another run in the fifth when McGhee singled and scored on a Sears RBI single, but the Red Wolves scored five in the bottom half of the inning to go ahead 9-7.

Maddie Dopson drew a two-out walk and Zakiya Baker singled to put runners on the corners.

Calvey followed with a two-run single and Georgia Kattler walked. Wise tied the game with an RBI single and Reyes reached on an error that allowed two runs to score.

Bella Williams, who was the losing pitcher in the first game of the series, replaced Kattler in the circle and pitched out of two jams to earn the win.

Independence tied the game with two runs in the sixth and then after Heights scored two in the bottom of the inning, the Blue Devils scored one in the seventh and had the tying run in scoring position before Williams recorded the final two outs of the game.

“She needed a confidence-booster like that, especially after that first game and then we got shelled this weekend,” Manfredonia said of Williams. “She needed to see that she’s able to do that. We asked her to step up and there’s nothing harder than coming in to save a game against your rival for a possible co-championship. I was really impressed with how she finished, especially with two errors in the last inning. She handled it and figured it out.”

Porter walked and Weber singled in the Independence sixth. McGhee then reached on an error that allowed one run to score and Niro singled home the tying run.

Kayla Vallee was hit by a pitch to start the Heights sixth and Moore singled. Dopson and Baker both followed with RBI singles.

Natalie George and Rieger both reached base on an error with one out in the top of the seventh. Porter hit an RBI single to cut the Heights lead to 11-10 with runners at second and third and just one out.

Williams coaxed a pair of infield popouts to end the game.

Reyes led the Red Wolves at the plate with three hits. Wise, Moore, Baker, and Calvey each had two hits.

Kattler allowed seven runs on 10 hits in five innings. Williams allowed three unearned runs on three hits with one strikeout in two innings of work.

McGhee and Niro both had three hits for Independence. Niro knocked in a team-best four runs.

Cuyahoga Heights needs a win over Lutheran West and Independence must beat Trinity to share the conference title.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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