Mineral Ridge overpowers Lowellville, reaches districts for 2nd straight year

Staff photo / Preston Byers Mineral Ridge’s Lily Merolillo gets set to throw a pitch during the Rams’ sectional final win against Lowellville on Wednesday.

MINERAL RIDGE — Mineral Ridge jumped on Lowellville early and maintained a comfortable lead throughout the Rams’ 13-4 sectional championship victory at home Wednesday.

Lily Merolillo went 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs, in addition to limiting the Rockets to just six hits in a complete game in the circle. The victory punches Mineral Ridge’s proverbial ticket to the district tournament for the second consecutive season; last year, the Rams made their first district appearance in nearly 20 years.

“This hasn’t happened around here lately,” Mineral Ridge co-head coach Will Sandy said of reaching the district tournament again. “It was a big occurrence in the ’80s and into the early ’90s there, but we’re trying to bring that back to the program.”

The Rams moved one step closer to achieving their goals Wednesday. Ridge began the scoring early, as Laney Rigley, the third Rams batter of the game, singled to drive in a run and take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.

The second inning would prove to be even more successful for Ridge, which jumped ahead 4-0 after a Lowellville outfield error allowed Savannah Turek to get into second base safely and eventually get home on a wild pitch before Merolillo recorded a two-run single.

Despite Lowellville putting a pair of runs on the board in the top of the third, the Rams responded with force; five players earned a hit as Mineral Ridge blew open the game and took a 9-2 lead.

The Rockets slowly began to work back into the game with a run in each the fifth and sixth innings, but Ridge’s offense scored four more runs in the bottom of the sixth to create a nine-run gap with which the game would finish.

Merolillo, Maddie Gerberry and Maggie Collins each recorded multiple RBIs for the Rams on Wednesday. For Lowellville, Gianna Palumbo went 1-3 and earned the only two RBIs of the game for the Rockets.

With the loss, Lowellville’s season comes to a close. The 18th-seeded Rockets advanced to play Mineral Ridge, the third seed, by defeating Lisbon David Anderson in the sectional semifinal 12-2 on Monday.

While the final score indicated a lopsided result, Sandy and co-head coach Joe Merolillo said after the game that their team still has plenty of room for improvement before the district tournament next week.

“I think our message is there’s always things to work on,” Sandy said. “We always have things that we need to work on coming out of a game, whether we play the game as perfectly as possible. Today was far from that.”

Sandy and Merolillo said they expect a tough battle against Maplewood, the No. 7 seed and the Rams’ next playoff opponent.

“We’re gonna match up well,” Merolillo said. “Like Coach Will said to our team, they’re kind of in the same boat we are; new coach, younger team. They’re gonna come in, and they’re gonna be hot. They’re gonna be excited and it’s gonna be our job to tame them down a little bit and start off strong and finish strong.”

Mineral Ridge will travel to Jackson-Milton for the Division IV, Northeast 1 district tournament. The winner of Ridge vs. Maplewood, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, will play the winner of the 4 p.m. game between Mathews (No. 1 seed) and Badger (No. 15 seed).

Have an interesting story? Contact Preston Byers by email at pbyers@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @PresByers.


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