North vs. Hoover softball: Rangers fall to Vikings, 4-3, in D-I district semifinal

May 13—Getting hits wasn't a problem for the North softball team in its Division I district semifinal against North Canton Hoover on May 13, and neither was getting runners on base.

Getting hits when they needed them? Now THAT is why the Rangers' postseason run came to an end at the hands of the Vikings in the first of two semifinal games played at Mentor on this bring, sunny afternoon.

North hammered out 10 hits, but left a small village — 14 runners in all — on base en route to a 4-3 loss.

The Rangers left the bases loaded in the first, third and seventh innings. In fact, the only inning in which North didn't leave a runner stranded was in the fourth frame. So when Hoover got the clutch hit in the bottom of the sixth — the clutch hit that evaded North all afternoon — that was the one that sent the Rangers packing.

PHOTOS: North vs. North Canton Hoover softball, May 13, 2024


You bet.

"We didn't move runners when we needed to and we left a lot of runners on the board," Coach Matt McPeek said. "It was almost a little bit of Murphy's Law. Things that could go wrong did. ... We just didn't get the big hit."

Hoover (16-6) trailed the entire game until Alexis Greenauer ripped a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to score Madelyn Rennecker and Summer McCaw. McPeek summoned Taylor Bard from the bullpen to relieve ace Amanda Dobida, and Josie Westfall greeted her with a double down the line to give Hoover a 4-3 lead.

It was Hoover's first lead since scoring a run in the first inning.

Undaunted, North loaded the bases in the top of the seventh on a Bre Preston infield single, a single to center by Bard and an infield single by Brynne Smith. But McCaw struck out Ashley Sykes for the second out and then Alyssa McPeek popped to second to end the game.

Alyssa McPeek had doubled twice earlier in the game.

"It's definitely frustrating how it happened in the last at-bat of the game," the senior catcher said. "I felt the whole game I was on it. The last time it happened was unfortunate."

But it was the theme of the game for North. The Rangers would get runners on, but lacked the big hit.

While North did get a clutch hit via McPeek's two-run double in the second, which scored Lily Namestnik and Smith, the Rangers left'em loaded in the third when a bases-loaded popout to third ended the frame.

In the fifth, North had runners on second and third but could only muster an inning-ending grounder to third. Then in the sixth, after McPeek scrambled home on Aly Hall's grounder back to the mound, a pop to short left a runner on second.

"I didn't have a super nervous feeling going into the seventh," Coach McPeek said. "I thought were were going to do what we did, but score a couple of runs. Things just didn't go our way today."

Legendary Hoover coach Jim Goodpasture credited his team for the win, but indicated his team dodged a few bullets.

"I give (the Vikings) credit for sticking in the ballgame," he said. "But we messed up a little bit early on. Fortunately, we were able to overcome it, and the bottom of the order came through for us. That's what it came down to."

With the win, Hoover advances to the district final at 5 p.m. on May 15 against Riverside. Hoover defeated Riverside earlier this year.

"You're always pleased to be in the district championship game," Goodpasture said. "... No matter who we play, we've got to come out and play better ball."

Despite the loss, North has plenty to play for still. The Rangers will play Riverside at 4:30 p.m. on May 14 for the outright WRC title. The game was suspended in the fourth inning in a scoreless tie two weeks ago when rains hit.

"A playoff game is definitely exciting," Alyssa McPeek said, noting the team's nine seniors playing their final game. "But tomorrow is our Super Bowl thing. We've been wanting this since our freshman year. Tomorrow is everything. We've got that sense of urgency to do or die and ride this out together."


Hoover 4, North 3