By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
It should have been a little easier. That may have the prevailing thought of fans heading into Geneva’s 3-1 victory over North on Monday afternoon at Geneva.
The Eagles beat the Rangers on April 12, a game in which Geneva ace Amy Pitcher struck out 16.
Pitcher only struck out seven batters Tuesday and dealt with runners on base in all but two innings.
“Amy really battled out there today,” Geneva coach Eleshia Pitcher said. “The mound was a little dry (from the drying agent used on the infield) and she had a little trouble with her footing. But she got the outs when she needed them and our defense behind her was great.”
The win pushes the Eagles record to 9-1 and keeps them atop the Premier Athletic Conference with a perfect 7-0 record. North falls to 5-8, 1-5.
On the mound for the Rangers was Bri Kiel, who went six strong innings herself allowing one earned run on five hits while striking out four batters and walking six.
“Bri threw the ball great today,” North coach Andy Palmero said. “She was being squeezed a little, but she did very well getting ahead of the hitters and getting the outs when she needed them. The defense let her down a little.
“Offensively, we had lots of opportunities. We just couldn’t come up with the big hit today.”
The difference in the game was a pair of unearned runs scored by the Eagles in the second inning. Trailing, 1-0, with two outs, Amy Pitcher singled through the right side to score Brandy Catanese from second base.
The next batter, Sarah Depp, bunted back to the mound. The throw went over the head of the first baseman and all the way down the right-field line. Pitcher was able to score all the way from first on the error while Depp made it to third. Depp then scored on a wild pitch.
Amy Pitcher would make the three runs stand up as she worked into and out of trouble.
North loaded the bases with one out in the third inning. Amy Pitcher came up with a strike-out and ground ball to get out of the jam.
The top of the fourth started with Kylie Hansen making a diving catch in right field to take extra bases away from Courtney Prezaki. After a strikeout, the Rangers got back-to-back singles and had runners at second and third. Danni Dowhan tried to score from third when a pitch got away from Eagles catcher Taylor Stoltz, but recovered the ball in time, however, and put the tag on Dowhan to prevent the run.
Stoltz came up with a big play from behind the plate again in the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out, Stoltz caught Lindsey Dibbin leading too far off the bag at third. The catcher fired the ball to third baseman Sarah Depp to force Dibbin into a rundown. Stoltz chased the runner back to third and fired the ball back to Depp, who tagged her out.
Amy Pitcher struck out the next batter to end yet another threat. She then retired the Rangers in order for only the second time on the afternoon to end the game.
“These games are not always great for the coach,” Eleshia Pitcher. “But they are good for the girls to experience what it’s like playing in a tight game.”
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.