COLUMBIANA-With a conference title no longer a possibility, the Crestview softball team is now building for the tournament.
The Rebels took another step in the right direction Wednesday, overcoming a handful of missed opportunities to edge past Springfield 3-2 at Crestview High School.
The Rebels improve to 14-4 overall and 6-3 in the Inter-Tri County league upper tier, while Springfield drops to 8-6 overall and 7-4 in the ITCL upper tier. Neither team has a chance of catching first-place South Range (12-0 ITCL upper tier) but that didn't make Wednesday's game any less important as both team prepare for the start of postseason play next week.
"We are starting to play really well," Crestview senior third baseman Anna Hardenbrook said. "Things were rough at the beginning of the year, but now we are starting to come together and we are ready to make a run in the tournament."
Hardenbrook powered the Rebels with two doubles, a single and two runs scored. Crestview squandered multiple threats against Springfield starter Josie Applegarth and wound up stranding eight runners, but the Rebels came up with enough timely hits to slip away.
"We were seeing the ball well most of the night and making hard contact," Hardenbrook said. "We couldn't take advantage of all our opportunities but we got people home when we needed to."
One of those chances came in the fifth. With the score tied at two, Hardenbrook doubled with one out, stole third and scored the go-ahead run on a fielder choice groundout by Bri Cope. Hardenbrook also tied the score in the second when she led off with a single, sped to third on a fielding error and scored on a fielders choice by Cope. Crestview's other run came in the fourth on an RBI single by Carlie Deidrick.
"On any given night, we have a number of players who can step up and get the momentum started for us," Crestview coach Clarence Sicklesmith said. "Tonight Anna really stepped up by getting on base all three times and we were able to push her home."
For much of the night, it appeared the Rebels were on the verge of opening a wide lead. After Hardenbrook tied the score in the second, Crestview still had two on with one out, but could not capitalize. The Rebels loaded the bases in the third, but came away empty in part because Lindsey Balmenti fell down rounding third base. A two-on, one-out situation in the fourth ended with a double play.
"We have a lot of girls who can hit the ball," Sicklesmith said. "We had so many runners on it felt like we were waiting for a big hit the whole night."
Springfield took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Shelby Sandrock. The Tigers went ahead 2-1 in the fourth on a long home run by Charley Troggio. The Tigers did not mount a big threat the rest of the game, though as Crestview sophomore Autumn Lindsay threw seven solid innings and retired 11 of the last 12 batters.
"She (Lindsay) threw a real solid game," Springfield coach Taylor McMullen said. "We hit a few balls hard but their defense made some nice plays.
With five seniors and a balanced lineup full of power (eight of the nine starters have hit at least one home run). The Rebels are brimming with confidence headed into next weeks Div. IV state tournament. The Rebels enter as the two-seed in the Lisbon district. Western Reserve-the ITCL lower tier frontrunner-is the top seed.
"Looking towards the end of the year, we think we have a good chance," Sicklesmith said. "We've been talking a lot amongst ourselves at this team's potential with five seniors. The attitude during the second part of the year has been terrific."
Springfield hosts Salem tomorrow as part of the Mahoning Valley Invitational. Crestview is at East Palestine.
Springfield High School will hold the Mahoning Valley Invitational softball tournament at its athletic complex starting tomorrow. The 24-team tournament will feature a round-robin format with each team guaranteed three games. South Range is the host and will provide all equipment and field maintenance. The event is held at Springfield because the Tigers feature four regulation-size fields. The entry fee for each team was $200.
"We think it's a great opportunity for us to get some extra games in before the tournament starts," McMullen said. "We get to go against some bigger schools, which will be a good experience."
CR-Autumn Lindsay, wp, (7IP, 4K, 0BB) and Alexys Brooks.
SP-Josie Applegarth, lp, (6IP, 6K, 3BB) and Charley Troggio.