The Rams won 3-0, but both teams felt they benefited from contest.
By KELLY WILLIAMS
NILES -- Win or lose, coaches Gene Cheredar and Beth Ciminero considered Mineral Ridge High's 3-0 softball victory over Niles on Wednesday to be worthwhile, valuable and successful.
"Playing a Division II team like Niles is the best thing to do," Cheredar said of his Div. IV Rams.
"Going in [to the tournament], we will be facing good pitching in our division," Cheredar said. "Better pitching [now] will definitely benefit us."
Mineral Ridge starting pitcher Kaili Gehring collected eight strikeouts in four innings while Ashley Ault whiffed six Red Dragons over the final three innings.
"The pitching [we faced] tonight is really going to help us," Ciminero said of the Rams' aces. "How to better prepare for tourneys? [Play] teams with great pitching."
Keeping aces sharp
Cheredar said he used Gehring and Ault because "both have been throwing really well. We want to keep them sharpened up and ready."
Mineral Ridge's Holly Mills began the game with a lead-off single. She scored on Sarah Gerberry's double two batters later.
Gerberry connected again in the third inning with an RBI single and scored off of Katie Olive's double.
The Red Dragons, who defeated Liberty Tuesday in their tournament opener, stranded six runners and tallied three hits by Crystal Martin, Maria Caicco, and Jenna Golias.
Ault said she felt little pressure because "non-league games allow me to work on other pitches."
Little offense turned this tight match into a pitching duel, exactly what both teams not only needed but wanted.
Niles starting pitcher Ashley Byrom, a freshman, and reliever Crystal Martin, who came on in the fifth inning, combined for seven strikeouts.
Next Thursday, Mineral Ridge opens tournament play with a sectional final game against the winner of today's Warren JFK-McDonald game.
Tuesday, Niles plays at Hubbard in a sectional final. Today, Niles plays Mooney in preparation for the Eagles.
"I have done no scouting, but from what I have heard we are a comparable team," Ciminero said of the matchup.