Rangers Get Walk-off Win in Tournament Opener
The LHS softball team defeated North Royalton 4-3 on Wednesday afternoon in an OHSAA tournament matchup. Freshman pitcher Payton Rossen went the distance in a scrappy performance, and was aided by three RBIs from senior Maggie Soneson. The victory advances Lakewood into the next round of the tournament, where they will face either Brecksville-Broadview Heights or Valley Forge on Tuesday in Parma.
Maddie Piller pitched for North Royalton, and had a strong pitchers duel with Rossen through the first three and a half innings. Piller retired the first nine Ranger batters in order, making quick work of the first three innings. Rossen, on the other hand, frequently had baserunners during the early innings of the game. She was able to make key pitches to escape potential jams. For example, the Bears had two baserunners in the fourth inning with no outs. After a sacrifice bunt, the next two batters were retired on a popup and an infield grounder...allowing no runs to score.
Lakewood didn't get its first hit until the fourth inning...but they got excellent use from it. Junior Saher Hamden led off the inning with a double to deep right-center field. Freshman Maizy Cunningham bunted her over to third on a sacrifice, and senior Maggie Soneson followed with an RBI single to center, giving Lakewood a 1-0 lead. Rossen retired the Bears quietly in the fifth, allowing only one baserunner. The Rangers had "three up, three down" in the bottom of the inning, as Piller settled back into her groove.
After stranding baserunners in four of the first five innings, North Royalton hit paydirt in the 6th. A bloop single, a walk, and a sacrifice gave the Bears runners on first and second base with two outs. This time Rossen was unable to lock up the third out, giving up a single to tie the game at 1-1. The situation quickly became more grim, as Evie Weiser singled to center and drove in two more runs. North Royalton led 3-1 and still had baserunners. Ranger second baseman Jackie Burdette then made a key play, snagging a hard-hit liner to end the rally and keep the score at 3-1.
Lakewood desperately needed a rally, and that's exactly what they got in the bottom of the 6th inning. Sophomore Claire Hylton led off with a single to center field. Hamden then got an infield single, putting two runners on base with two outs. Soneson then delivered the biggest hit of the afternoon, lining a double to right center field. Both baserunners scored, and the game was tied at 3-3 after six innings.
As they did most of the day, North Royalton threatened again in the top of the 7th inning. They got a leadoff single, and eventually had two baserunners. However, Rossen was able to escape again, keeping the score at 3-3 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Rossen helped her own cause with a huge one-out double to right field, putting the game-winning run in scoring position. Freshman Tara Kantura entered the game to pinch run for Rossen. Claire Hylton laid down a nice sacrifice bunt, which resulted in a throwing error by the Bears. The error allowed Kantura to score from third base, providing the winning run and sending happy Rangers out of the dugout to celebrate a big win.
The Rangers return to regular season action this Friday when they host Berea-Midpark on Friday afternoon at Harding Middle School. They will then have one remaining regular season game at Westlake before travelling to Parma next week for their OHSAA matchup. The game is scheduled to take place at 3:30pm on the campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Parma.
Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1