S. Range pummels Waterloo
Raiders earn date against defending champion
By charles grove
The South Range High School softball team is entering the regional tournament on a bang after mercy-ruling Waterloo 11-1 in five innings in Thursday’s Division III district championship game.
The Raiders scored six times before the end of the fifth inning to win their fourth district title in the past six seasons.
Caragyn Yanek picked up the win, allowing three hits and one earned run while striking out four. South Range on offense clubbed 10 hits.
The Raiders (26-3) struck first in the first inning after Morgan Czopur started off with a perfect bunt and was driven in two batters later by a Madison Weaver groundout.
Waterloo came back in the third. Kaitlyn Hood led off getting plunked by a Yanek pitch and Amber Cieplinski crushed one off the center-field wall to tie the game.
The Raiders immediately responded in the bottom half with a devastating inning. Hope Thomas led off with a single and two Vikings errors loaded the bases with no outs.
Codi Taylor drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Raiders up 2-1. Weaver hit a single to left field to make it 3-1.
Hanna Dennison lined out to the first baseman Megan Gibson who attempted to tag first to record a double play. But Weaver was ruled safe prompting Waterloo head coach Brenda Flarida to come out of the dugout to protest the call. In the confusion, Yanek saw an opportunity and raced home to make it 4-1.
“I saw the first baseman distracted and my coach was telling me, ‘Watch, watch’ and she turned her head and I knew that was my time to go home,” Yanek said.
It was 5-1 before Waterloo ended the inning and the Vikings were never the same, failing to reach first base the remainder of the game.
In the fifth inning, Felicia Gaeta smashed a two-RBI-inside-the-park home run to stretch the lead to 8-1 before Thomas hit one out of the park for two more runs. The final play was all too fitting for Waterloo. Czopur hit a routine ground ball to the third baseman who threw it over Gibson’s head allowing Czopur to advance to third. Gibson tried to get Czopur at third but airmailed that throw as well and Czopur scampered home for a walk-off district championship.
“I keep playing this game over in my head and I did not expect this,” South Range head coach Jeff DeRose said.
Czopur said her team was able to figure out that Waterloo’s pitcher Machayla Kehrer was living on the outside part of the plate to right-handers.
“Every time one of us came back, we’d tell where she was pitching so we knew where it was coming,” Czopur said.
For Yanek, winning a district title so dominantly makes the win even sweeter.
“We wanted that. We wanted to be able to say we had a mercy rule in the district championship game,” Yanek said. “It feels great.”
The next hurdle for the Raiders is the defending-state champions in Champion. In the Leavittsburg, district final, Champion ousted Newton Falls, 4-1.
“They’re really good but we are, too,” DeRose said. “I think it’s relatively evenly matched on paper but expectations wise they’re probably favored. We’ve been the favorite all year so it’s kind of fun not to be.
“If we play Wednesday like we did today, it’s going to be a battle.”
A Newton Falls error allowed Megan Turner to score the winning run in the sixth inning.
Newton Falls got the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Tara Backherms flew out to left field to end it.
The Golden Flashes won a very different game than South Range did and a different kind of win than their 10-0 win Wednesday against Brookfield in the district semifinal.
“I really think this type of win was good for the girls,” Champion head coach Cheryl Weaver said. “You have to fight until the very end and it’s only going to get harder from here on out.”
South Range and Champion will square off in their regional semifinal at Massillon Washington High School on Wednesday at 5 p.m.