COLUMBIANA - South Range has handled everyone in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier with ease all season.
With a share of the league title up for grabs, there was no reason to expect anything else.
South Range exploded for nine runs in the first inning to beat Crestview, 15-6, Thursday and clinch at least a share of their fourth straight ITCL crown.
Despite the lopsided victory, South Range coach Don Feren was not entirely pleased with his team's effort.
"Early on, we were being patient at the plate," Feren said. "We waited for our pitch instead of forcing everything. Once we got our lead, we lost our focus and started caring more about ourselves than the rest of the team."
The vast majority of South Range's offensive production came in the first three innings. All of the 15 runs the Raiders scored were in that span, as well as 17 of their 20 hits.
CR: 0-0-4-0-2-0-0- 6- 9-3
SR-Carly DeRose, wp (2ip, 1H, 0R, 4K, 1HBP), Darrian Yanek (5ip, 8H, 6R, 2BB, 3K), Sarah Moretti and Morgan Renforth.
CR-Sarah Koehler, lp (2 1/3ip, 16H, 15R, 0K, 2BB), Sydney Davis (4 2/3ip, 4H, 0R, 2K, 0BB) and Alexys Brooks.
"The first pitch isn't always going to be the best pitch you're gonna get," Feren said. "That really showed in the second half of the game."
Contrasting the Raiders, Crestview's bats started slow but heated up as the game went on. The Rebels tallied just one hit in the first two innings but finished with nine en route to their six runs.
"We just weren't playing in the first half of the game," Crestview Clarence Sickelsmith coach said. "We came out flat and not aggressive like we normally do. Our team is a really good team, but they just have to fix the communication on the field and get it together."
Crestview had minor hopes for a comeback after they rallied for four runs in the third and two more in the fifth, bringing the score to 15-6. However, the Rebels struggled in the final two innings, collecting just one hit. Crestview fell to 13-6 overall, 8-4 in the ITCL with the loss.
It was a dominating performance by South Range (16-2, 10-0), who has set goals larger than ITCL titles. After falling to Newton Falls in the sectional final last season, the Raiders hope to advance further in this year's tournament.
"There are a lot of good players coming back in the district," South Range senior Morgan Renforth said. "I think the pitching is better there than in the ITCL.We're going to have to start jumping on pitchers early in order to survive."
South Range has maintained a tough self-assessment for not only this game, but the entire season. Coach Feren scheduled difficult non-conference teams to gain experience against severe competition.
"We feel like if we can do well against non-conference teams," Feren said, "we'll have a lot of success in the league. One of our losses was to a prep school out of Maryland. All of the games we played in South Carolina were close games against schools with much larger enrollments than us."
While the loss was a lopsided one for Crestview, Coach Sickelsmith felt that the Rebels still housed a good team, but stressed the need for successful communication and team unity for any success after the regular season.
"The biggest thing is the communication within the team," Sickelsmith said. "If that happens, everything else will fall into place because we're that good."
South Range opened the game with each of its first eight batters reaching base safely. Within that streak, the Raiders walked once, had five hits, and had two runners reach on Crestview errors.
The second inning began in a similar fashion when the first seven Raiders each touched base. Carly DeRose, Jordan Youngs, and Kara Taylor each had RBIs in the inning.
South Range scored three more runs in the third to bring their lead to 15-0, but the Rebels would respond with four runs in the bottom of the third. Sarah Koehler brought around two runs with a double. Crestview scored twice more in the fifth with RBIs credited to Koehler and Bri Cope.
Overall the Raiders were led by DeRose, who had four singles and two RBIs. DeRose also pitched the first two innings, giving up one hit and striking out four. Renforth added a double, a triple and an RBI, while Darrian Yanek knocked three hits, including a double and triple, and two RBIs.
Koehler led Crestview with three RBIs and two hits. Sydney Davis and Alexys Brooks each had RBIs as well.
South Range is at Lisbon on Monday. Crestview, meanwhile, will travel to Hubbard today.