INDEPENDENCE—Big innings, clutch hitting and pitching, and a sound defensive effort led Independence to a 12-2 run-rule win over rival Cuyahoga Heights on Wednesday.
The Blue Devils posted two five-run innings and limited the RedWolves to just two hits in the five-inning win that served as redemption for last season when the two rivals split the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division title.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Independence coach Mallory Kobak. “We love to play Heights because it’s such a huge rivalry. I know (Heights coaches) Brandon (Williams) and Kyle (Manfredonia) really well, so it’s really nice to meet on the field with them. The girls were hyped, we were ready, and we were preparing for them for a long time, so the fact that we got this game in and we run rolled them, it’s just redemption at its finest.”
After Ashleigh Porter shut the RedWolves down in order in the top of the first, the Blue Devils went to work in the bottom half of the inning.
Natalie George started Independence’s rally with a single and Porter drew a one-out walk to put runners at first and third. George scored on Anna Weber’s ground out and then Cat Rieger singled home Porter to give the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead.
Macy McGhee then singled and Tiffani Niro followed with her first career home run, a three-run shot to center.
“It’s so huge for us, especially tonight,” Niro said of the fast start. “It’s so important for us to actually do this today. I wanted this more than anything in my life.”
Cuyahoga Heights rallied for two runs in the top of the second.
Shai Moore hit a leadoff single and Zakiya Baker was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up on Bella Williams’ sacrifice bunt and Moore scored on Kaitey Calvey’s ground out. Sierra Wise then hit an RBI single to cut Independence’s lead to 5-2.
Sophie George singled and Natalie George drew a walk in the bottom of the second. Rieger later reached on an error that scored Sophie George to push the Independence lead to 6-2.
The Blue Devils added five more runs in the fourth.
Porter and Weber drew back-to-back walks and Rieger singled to load the bases. Porter scored on a passed ball and then McGhee grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Weber. Sophie George drew a two-out walk and Natalie George hit a two-run single and Paige Priebe added an RBI single that left the Blue Devils up, 11-2.
Weber led off the Independence fifth with a single and Niro reached on an error that allowed Weber to score the game-winning run.
“That’s what Shannon (Moore) and I preach to them all the time, that we’re the first to score and attack and never take an inning off,” Kobak said. “For the most part, that’s what we did today.”
Natalie George and Rieger both finished the game with two hits for the Blue Devils and Niro knocked in a team-best four runs.
Porter went the distance in the circle. She allowed two runs on two hits and struck out five.
She benefited from a solid defensive effort that included a great running catch by Keely Sears in the first inning and a double play off a line drive midway through the game.
“Keely made an incredible catch in left field,” Kobak said. “We were trying to decide where we wanted to put her. We were in between throwing her at third and Tiffani in left and vice versa. This just proves to us that she belongs in left field because she can make incredible plays like that.”
Moore and Wise had hits for Cuyahoga Heights. Williams struck out five in 3 1/3 innings of work in the circle.
With the win, Independence improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division. Heights dropped to 2-2, 1-1.