WADSWORTH — Playing two crucial Suburban League softball games on Tuesday, it was gut-check time for Highland and Wadsworth.
Both were coming off debilitating losses the day before, so being able to sweep both games — the first contest was the conclusion of a suspended game from April 14 — was crucial.
The Hornets came out ready. The Grizzlies slumped out of the gate.
By the time it was over, Highland was on the right side of 3-2 and 6-2 wins, while Wadsworth was left wondering what went wrong.
For the Hornets (12-9, 8-4), a loss Monday to second-place Nordonia (14-6, 9-3) in the SL left their conference chances on life support. For the Grizzlies (8-9, 6-5), five losses in their last six games made it a must to win at least one game.
When action picked back up, it looked like both squads were going to put up a fight, but a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth with two outs allowed Morgan Belsole to score from third for the Hornets. Highland used that momentum and never gave it back.
“That win in the ninth inning and beating Tallmadge in the 11th (two weeks ago), we’re playing with aggression,” Hornets coach Nick Spirtos said. “We’re making the plays in the big game. I’m proud of them.”
Highland lassoed the energy from the first game and carried it over to the first inning of the second one, scoring three runs out of the gate and adding another in the third to chase Grace Zarley (6-6).
The Hornets pounded Grizzlies pitching to the tune of 15 hits in the second game and picked up home runs from Sam Catron and Brittany Fleischer to make sure there wasn’t much doubt.
“We needed this to motivate us for the rest of the week,” Catron said. “We lost Monday and needed to shake that off to focus on these two games.”
Leegan Vorndran (10-3) didn’t need much focus after seeing her seven-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Knights on Monday. The junior right-hander shot down just about every Wadsworth rally to pick up both wins, allowing four hits in the nightcap while striking out seven.
“When she’s on the mound and the kids are behind her, she has confidence,” Spirtos said. “The kids have confidence. She throws strikes. She’s just an awesome participant. She doesn’t show any emotion. She’s flat, which is perfect for being a pitcher. She doesn’t get rattled. It’s really fun watching her pitch.”
The fun comes the rest of the week, as Highland will try to hold serve while hoping someone can help against league-leading Tallmadge (15-3, 9-1).
The Grizzlies can do the Hornets a favor with a win over Nordonia today, while the Hornets play Tallmadge on Thursday.
Nordonia and Tallmadge play each other Friday, so the entire league could be turned on its ear by then. Either way, Highland is rolling into postseason play.
“We have that big game with Tallmadge this week, so we have to be focused,” Catron said. “Winning always motivates you. When we win, everybody gets up and is ready for the next game.”
As for Wadsworth, the Grizzlies have been outscored 25-11 during their five-game slide. Coach Michelle DeAngelis noticed a listless team against Highland in both contests and substituted freely in an effort to stem the tide.
“We definitely have to find a combination of girls that works for us,” she said. “That’s why we were trying different things. We have to find nine or 10 players to step up and play for Wadsworth.
“Highland is a very good team. I think in that situation, we needed to see some fight. We had to come into the second game wanting it more. We need to find a way to come out strong in the first inning offensively, defensively and with our pitching. We need to fire on all cylinders.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.