Cuyahoga Heights is headed back to the regional tournament for the first time since the team won the state title back in 2014.
Senior Julia Harris hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning and Heights added a run in the second then fought off Mogadore down the stretch to win the Division IV Revere District championship on Wednesday, 3-1.
“It was awesome, especially with Julia hitting that home run,” said Cuyahoga Heights coach Kyle Manfredonia. “She’s one of the greatest athletes I’ve coached and one of the best people, so for her to get that home run was awesome to see.”
Aleze Reyes got things started in the first inning when she singled and moved to second on an error.
Harris hit the second pitch she saw over the field in the left.
“The pitch was slightly inside and felt so smooth off of my bat,” Harris said. “With this being my first home run, I wasn’t ready for the ball to go over the fence and could barely believe it when I saw it clear.”
Following her two-run shot, Harris used that momentum in the pitching circle. She allowed just six hits and struck out three.
“With the early lead, it definitely gave me a sense of security and allowed me to feel more confident with my pitch placement,” she said.
Her teammates gave her an insurance run in the second when Zakiya Baker reached on an error and Katie Calvey bunted her over to second. Reyes then reached on an error to push the Heights lead to 3-0.
Mogadore used a single and a double to put runners on second and third in the third inning but Harris coaxed a popup out of the next two batters to end that threat.
She then retired six of the next seven batters to keep the Wildcats scoreless through five.
Mogadore opened the sixth with a single and a double and a sacrifice fly cut the Heights lead to 3-1.
Once again, Harris minimized the damage.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Manfredonia said of his pitching and defense. “Julia isn’t going to overpower anyone but she sure is going to make mishits. We take pride in our defense to stop people and they did their job. We didn’t have any errors and we just handled our business. That made all the difference, especially in a close game like that.”
Mogadore outhit Heights, 6-3, but Harris was determined to do her part, both in the circle and at the plate.
“Becoming a district champ has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember,” she said. “It was so unbelievably exciting and rewarding. We have worked so hard and this win was an absolute dream come true.”
Heights advanced to the regional semifinals for a matchup against Tuscarawas Central Catholic at Firestone Stadium in Akron on Monday at 5:00 p.m.
“The fact we’ve been playing at Firestone really, really helps,” Manfredonia said of preparing his kids for the biggest game of their careers. “They’re seeing the success and we’re just going to keep it business as usual. We’re going to keep practicing the way we’ve been practicing and get as much information as we can on Tuscarawas and just go from there and go out and perform.”