Mineral Ridge jumps on Maplewood early in 9-4 win

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Mineral Ridge's Lily Merolillo fires a pitch durign the team's 9-4 victory over Maplewood on Monday.

NORTH JACKSON — Mineral Ridge took advantage of some early mistakes to dispatch Maplewood in a Division IV, Jackson-Milton District semifinal on Monday, taking down the Rockets 9-4.

The Rams scored the first nine runs of the game during the first four innings, four of which were off of runners walked home.

While the bats cooled off after the fourth, the Rams still were able to hold on and ice the game.

Finishing games has been a sticking point for Mineral Ridge co-head coaches Joe Merolillo and Will Sandy.

The team had a scare, but held on to win.

“There’s been a couple times this year where two extra inning games that we weren’t able to finish, so we’ve talked about finishing games,” Sandy said. “We’ve talked about when you have a team down, you’ve got to (finish them off). We didn’t do that today, but we were able to somehow find a win. Lily (Merolillo) just kept pumping the strikes and we just kept making defensive plays and that was the difference in the game.”

With their backs against the wall, the Rockets didn’t fold.

In the top of the sixth, senior shortstop Ella Nevinski got Maplewood on the board with a solo home run. Later in the inning, Jessica Siegel was walked home to cut into the Rams’ lead further.

That sparked a late-game rally that led to Maplewood pushing back to cut the score to 9-4. Unfortunately for the Rockets, that was all they could muster. Maplewood’s season ends with an 11-8 mark.

“Obviously when Ella came up and hit the home run over the fence, it changed our mentality,” Maplewood coach Jessica Urchek said. “I knew the team that was most mentally ready for this game was going to win. I didn’t think that we were ready when we came here to play, but I’m glad that they fought and turned around and showed energy to come back.”

Maplewood graduates three seniors including Nevinski, who had three hits on the night and crossed home again to score the team’s fourth and final run.

“There’s great leadership on this team,” Urchek said. “Three seniors that we’re going to miss a lot. What you saw at the end of the game was a lot of underclassmen, so there’s a bright future ahead, but (the seniors) were great, great leaders. They came in knowing that my job was to turn the program around and they did their job. They did anything I asked them to do. They were great leaders for us.”

The win sets up a rematch for Mineral Ridge, taking on Mathews in the distinct final. Their first meeting was a self-described poor reflection on the team’s abilities, losing 19-3.

“We didn’t see them the way we know we can see them, let’s just put it that way,” Merolillo said.

A clean game is the key.

“We have to play our A-plus game,” Sandy said. “If we can come in and execute and execute our game plan the way we want to do it — I think the biggest thing for us is if we play error free, I’d like to think that we can compete with anybody. We respect the heck out of that team and we’re gonna give them our best shot, that’s for sure.”

First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Jackson-Milton High School on Wednesday.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.


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