It was a back-and-forth battle between Tallmadge’s Kirsten Lightel and Wadsworth’s Grace Zarley, with the two matching each other pitch-for-pitch at Weatherstone Park on Monday.
The duel lasted until the sixth inning, when the Grizzlies took advantage of two costly errors that gave them the boost they needed to win the Suburban League matchup
The ultimate game-changer came off the bat of Wadsworth catcher Sam Ryan in the bottom of the sixth.
In Ryan’s three at-bats, she had the same approach every time, taking two balls to start and attacking on the third or fourth pitch. In her first two plate appearances, she got too far under the ball and popped out, she but made sure she didn’t miss on her third try at Lightel’s fastball. Ryan struck a three-run shot over the left-field wall with one out.
“Our coach (Michelle DeAngelis) always talks about having a spark on the team,” Ryan said. “We all had hits throughout the game. It was a key hit when we needed it.”
With Zarley pitching a shutout, the three runs on one swing were exactly what the Grizzlies needed.
And they weren’t done, which is why Tallmadge (13-6, 10-1) suffered its first SL loss and saw its league lead over the Grizzlies (15-5, 9-3) shrink to 1½ games.
Wadsworth took advantage of two errors by shortstop Lexi Philen in the inning, one coming after Bailey Conard’s eight-pitch at-bat and the other on a throw that allowed Niki Weaver to score from second.
“It was huge (to score off Tallmadge’s errors),” DeAngelis said. “When you have a good team that you’re playing against, you have to take advantage of the errors.”
The Grizzlies faced some trouble in the sixth inning as well, with Zarley allowing the Nos. 5-7 batters to load the bases with two outs. Zarley’s control until that point was strong, but she suddenly couldn’t find the strike zone.
After starting Tori Young off with a strike, Zarley threw four straight balls to load the bases.
Tallmadge senior second baseman Ali Wagner showed great poise in her previous at-bat by getting walked on five pitches and had the same approach this time.
Zarley (7-4) fell behind 2-0, but then the freshman found her groove again by firing three straight strikes and freezing Wagner to strike her out looking.
“(Zarley) hit her spots,” Ryan said. “Her curveball was working well. She just did a really good job.”
After defeating Tallmadge, DeAngelis likes where her team is at heading into the sectional tournament next week.
“It’s definitely a lot of motivation to see. We keep telling the girls that we’re a good team, but we’re just not there yet,” DeAngelis said. “We, the coaching staff, don’t believe that we’ve hit our peak yet, but I think we’re getting close to that. We’re working toward that.”
Contact Matthew Doyle at email@example.com.