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North vs. South softball: Rangers get off to hot start on chilly day, dump Rebels, 6-1

Apr. 24—Before the North softball team departed the school for a short trip to rival South on April 24, Coach Matt McPeek challenged his players to overcome what they were facing.

What they were facing were three adversaries — the rival Rebels, frigid temperatures with wind-chill temperatures near freezing and a two-losing streak in which the team did not play particularly well.

The Rangers accepted the challenge.

Paced by a 14-hit attack and a dominating pitching performance by Amanda Dobida, North defeated South, 6-1, to snap the two-game funk and remain atop the Western Reserve Conference with a 12-5 (5-1 in league play) record. Riverside is a game back with a 3-1 league mark.

"They did a 180 (degree turn) from our energy on Monday," McPeek said of the aura around the team's 9-2 loss to Gilmour, which came two days after a 10-7 loss to Boardman. "When they got off the bus here, I could tell it was a different team."

Coach Matt McPeek of @RangersFP challenged his team to come out hot against @southathletics and that's exactly what they did pic.twitter.com/MWH8nZq7Jd

— News-Herald preps (@NHPreps) April 25, 2024

Shrugging off the cold temperatures and wind, North jumped on South starter Violet Dichazy for two runs in the first inning and never looked back. Aly Hall ripped two doubles, including an RBI hit in the first inning, and Maddie Russo blasted a pair of solo home runs to dead-centerfield as part of North's persistent offense that was silenced earlier in the week.

That made life a lot easier for Dobida, who pitched a four-hitter, walking two and striking out seven.

"This isn't our preferable weather for when we play South," Hall said, "but we did what we had to do. We came here with energy. That was the key to this one. We had to be up the whole time."

Alyssa McPeek comes home on a double steal ; @RangersFP with the early 1-0 lead over @southathletics pic.twitter.com/frwJvpsNcT

— News-Herald preps (@NHPreps) April 24, 2024

A double-steal allowed Alyssa McPeek to score the first run before Hall doubled in Dobida to make it 2-0 early. It was a welcome start since their coach noted, "We haven't been a good first-inning team, especially on the road."

Aly Hall double to right gives @RangersFP a 2-0 lead over @southathletics in the first pic.twitter.com/sKEZ6pA01d

— News-Herald preps (@NHPreps) April 24, 2024

South (9-6) did have some good fortune getting leadoff batters on base, but nothing materialized for those instances until late in the game when the score was out of hand anyway. The Rebels got leadoff batters on in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but each time Dobida buckled down and got stops.

After five @RangersFP 3 @southathletics 0. Rebels leave two runners in scoring position, but Dobida gets the big strike out. pic.twitter.com/NrSnebwwMK

— News-Herald preps (@NHPreps) April 24, 2024

She was aided defensively by a slick 1-4-3 play to end the third, a leaping grab at second by Brynne Smith in the fourth inning and then a Dobida strikeout in the fifth. That kept North's 2-0 lead safe.

"That's something (Dobida) has been working on, trying to minimize damage," McPeek said.

Instead, North kept dishing out damage, with Russo hitting a no-doubter home run in the fifth to go with another solo bomb in the seventh. In between, Dobida doubled in Smith to make for a 6-0 lead.

"The first one, I kind of watched it," Russo said of her mammoth homer. "I was iffy about the second one. Their centerfielder (Makenna Owens) made a good play. If she would have caught it, it would have been one hell of a play, but she didn't."

Aly Hall and Maddie Russo swing hot bats in @RangrsFP win over @southathletics today. pic.twitter.com/mUY1W54rUl

— News-Herald preps (@NHPreps) April 25, 2024

South got on the board in the seventh when Taylor Zupancic and Summer Bliss strung together back-to-back doubles. But Dobida retired to the final three batters to end the potential threat and close out the win.

"That's a good-hitting club 1-through-9," South coach Jeff Morganti said of the Rangers, a program he used to coach. "I thought Violet put us in position to win. She was hitting spots and trying to jam them.

"We can't leave runners in scoring position. I think we had a couple opportunities there. ... Dobida did a nice job of throwing the ball on the outside of the plate."

Morganti credited Bliss, who hammered two deep doubles off the fence in right.

"It was nice to see Summer do that," he said. "She hit the ball to the opposite field, which was good to see."

The two teams will meet again in May in their annual under-the-lights game at Todd Field, a game that no doubt will have league implications as North aims to hang a WRC banner this year.

"We know that we have to beat Riverside to win this thing," McPeek said, "but we still have to beat (South), too."

THE SCORE

North 6, South 1