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North rides experience factor to sectional victory over Mentor – News-Herald
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North rides experience factor to sectional victory over Mentor – News-Herald

Amanda Dobida pitched the North Rangers to a 7-4 victory over Mentor in a Division I sectional final on May 8. (Paul DiCicco – For The News-Herald)

Experience is a valuable tool. Just ask the North softball team.

Not only are the Rangers a senior-heavy team, but they are also a team that knows what it’s like to lose to Mentor in the postseason tournament like they did a year ago.

The experience paid off on May 8.

North battled back from a first-inning deficit and avenged last year’s loss to Mentor in a district semifinal with a 7-4 win over the Cardinals that gave coach Matt McPeek’s team a Division I sectional title .

PHOTOS: North vs. Mentor softball, May 8, 2024

With the win, fifth-seeded North (17-7) will play fourth-seeded North Canton Hoover in the Mentor District on Monday, May 13, at 2 p.m.

“This was a huge win for us,” said senior pitcher Amanda Dobida, “especially coming into this week. This is probably the biggest week of our season.”

Not only did North have a revenge game of sorts against Mentor in tournament action, but the Rangers will also play Riverside on May 9 in what amounts to the Western Reserve Conference title game, as both teams enter the game with one loss in league play. The game, which was interrupted two weeks ago due to rain, resumes in the bottom of the fourth inning in a scoreless tie.

Additionally, North will play rival South in an under-the-lights game at Todd Field on May 10.

Three big games in three days, and the Rangers cleared the first hurdle with the win over Mentor.

“We’ve been talking about it all week,” McPeek said. “We have to take one thing at a time. We have 2 1/2 games this week. If you guys can’t get excited for something like this…”

What added to the adrenaline, McPeek said, was Mentor jumping into North’s quarter bracket.

“(We) took it personally that we were kind of followed in the race, just like last year,” he said. “They weren’t going to lose on their home court.”

But Mentor did make an attempt. After North took a 5-1 lead with a four-run fourth – with Lily Namestnik, Brynne Smith and Alyssa McPeek all driving in runs – Mentor closed the gap to 5-4 with a three-run sixth when Kat Bouffard singled . -double loaded.

North put together monumental insurance runs at the bottom of the frame, however, as Dobida and Aly Hall both made bases-loaded walks to give the Rangers more support at 7-4.

Mentor made one rally attempt in the top of the seventh inning. Gabi Dadante singled and Mak Kobetitsch singled to center with one out. But the Rangers got a wrench when left fielder Maddy Ferrari reached over the left-field fence and caught a foul ball off the bat of Mentor’s lanky freshman Ireland Rainey.

Dobida then set up Maggie Haydu to pop out to short to end the match.

“We were right where we wanted to be in the order and the left fielder made a great catch over the fence,” Mentor coach Jo Bondra said. “We got going early, stayed positive and fought back. They fought all year long. We came here with a plan and tried to execute it.”

But that wasn’t easy against a senior-heavy team like North.

“One hundred percent,” Bondra said. “I don’t think I’ve used two pitchers in a game very often, but when they see you for the third time (in the batting order), you have to make a change. I think they all came back from the last game.” year. They came ready to go.”

Dobida walked three batters and struck out eight to get the win. She left Mentor runners on base in three different innings.

“The Mentor lineup is tough,” she said. “They’re all great hitters, they can bunt and they’re fast. They know what to do in certain situations. We had to jump on them early and every time they scored it was great to bounce back.”

Ashley Sykes led the charts with three hits atop the North lineup.

“I just went looking for a first pitch,” she said. “I try to be aggressive early on. Getting into a hole usually doesn’t end well.”

Despite the loss, Mentor (16-9) has plenty to play for. The Cardinals face Brunswick on May 9. A win means the outright GCC title.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Bondra said. “We have to be ready to go again so we can secure the GCC.”

THE SCORE

North 7, Mentor 4