Friday, September 22, 2023

Independence slips past Kirtland

KIRTLAND—It took eight innings but Independence seized control of the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division with a 4-3 win at Kirtland on Saturday.

Sarah Piteo hit a one-out single in the top of the eighth and later scored on a groundout to give the Blue Devils, the defending CVC Valley champs, their seventh straight win.

“Coming into this game we knew Kirtland would be a challenge,” said Independence coach Mallory Kobak. “We knew we were prepared, we just had to execute the way we know we can.”

Early on, it was the Hornets executing at a high level.

Emily Ungrady, who struck out the side in the top of the first, sparked the Hornets on offense with a two-out double. She scored on Vikki Carriero’s single to give the Hornets a 1-0 lead. Carriero stole second and scored on Haleigh Getchell’s single.

Seven of the first nine Independence hitters struck out but the Blue Devils tied it in the top of the fourth on back-to-back Kirtland errors, a fielder’s choice and a two-run single by Olivia Pallini.

Pallini finished 1-for-4 with three runs batted in.

“Olivia has been focusing on her offensive play more than ever this year,” Kobak said. “If anyone deserves to have a game like that it’s her.”

Independence took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth when Jenna Suhy led off with a single and moved to second on a fielder’s choice. She scored on Maggie George’s two-out double.

The Hornets forced extra innings but could have won it in the bottom of the seventh with one more clutch hit.

Elizabeth Vernon hit a one-out single and moved to second on a passed ball. Katie McCollister beat out a sacrifice bunt to put runners at first and third with one out. McCollister stole second and the Blue Devils intentionally walked Ungrady to load the bases.

Carriero again delivered with an RBI single.

“Vikki came up clutch today,” said Kirtland coach Jamie Kamensky. “She took control of her at-bats early and set the tone right off the bat. She came through again at the end. It’s phenomenal when a senior can give that kind of performance.”

Getchell then hit a sharp ground ball to third but George fielded it cleanly and threw to Suhy at the plate for the second out.

Independence pitcher Kim Rega coaxed a groundout out of Kaitlyn Mancini to end the seventh.

Rega allowed a two-out double to Danielle Davis in the bottom of the eighth but she retired the next batter to seal the win.

“Today was tough,” Kamensky said. “We had our chances and we fell short. We battled against a very good team and it just didn’t go in our favor. We fought hard and didn’t execute in a crucial point in the game. We bounced back though and never gave up. The loss stings, but we still have hope and can’t wait to get them again.”

Rega allowed two earned runs on seven hits and struck out seven in the win.

“The rain was a challenge for her in terms of getting a good grip on the ball,” Kobak said of Rega. “She really stepped up and took control today.”

Ungrady finished 1-for-1 at the plate with a run scored and allowed two earned runs on five hits and struck out 10 for the Hornets.

“Emily Ungrady is a beast,” Kamensky said. “She kept us in the game and performed. She had 10 big strikeouts and did her part. We’re very proud of her and know she’s anxious to throw at them again as well.”

Independence improved to 9-2 overall while Kirtland dropped to 4-2.

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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