South Range knocked out of playoffs by Ursuline, 2-1, in 9 innings

GREENFORD – The Youngsotwn Ursuline softball team continued its flair for the dramatic on Friday en route to winning a Division III district title, 2-1, against South Range in nine innings.

A day after winning a come-from-behind victory over Newton Falls, the second-seeded Irish got a timely hit from senior Megan Ross in the second extra frame which allowed Maddie Christoff to cross the plate with the winning run.

“The girls were ready for this,” Ursuline coach Mike Kernan said. “It’s been a long season and we took some tough losses along the way. We knew we were good enough. If we play to our potential, we can play with anybody.

“We’ve been in fights all year and we knew South Range would give us a heck of a battle. That’s what we got.”

After each team scored a run in the fourth inning, Ursuline (20-9) and South Range (25-3) both struggled to string together hits.

The top-seeded Raiders had their chances with a runner reaching third base in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings, but were unable to push any across home plate.

“We left people in position that should’ve got in,” South Range coach Don Feren said. “When you give up four hits and get eight, that should be a win.”

In the top of the ninth, Ursuline’s Christoff reached on a single and was brought home when Ross’ hit got past South Range left fielder Kara Taylor.

“I saw that they were playing me in so I just tried to tap it over their head,” Ross said. “I was just trying to hit it where it was pitched.

The Raiders, who have been solid defensivley all season, committed five errors on the day.

“You can’t have five errors,” Feren said. “We’ve probably only had one or two errors in our past 10 games. We knew it was going to be tight, one-run games the rest of the way out. It’s frustrating to lose like this, but to their credit, they put the ball in play.”

Both pitchers controlled the action from the mound.

Ursuline’s Makayla Shore finished with five strikeouts and two walks including a one-two-three bottom of the ninth.

“She’s really grown up a ton this year and it really showed up today against a great hitting lineup,” Kernan said of his pitcher.

Carly DeRose was the tough-luck loser for the Raiders after allowing only four hits in nine innings with eight strikeouts and two walks.

“They played well,” Feren said of the Irish. “They got the key hits and key outs when they needed them. We were worried about (Mazey) Gunther and Shore and they didn’t do anything. It was the younger ones that stepped up for them.”

Christoff did the most damage for Ursuline with three hits and RBI and a run scored.

For South Range, DeRose had two hits and a stolen base, while Stevie Taylor had to hits, a stolen base and scored the Raiders’ lone run.

“We’re not going to be able to replace these seniors,” Feren said. “You hope that the younger kids, the underclassmen, step up and learn from what this feels like.

“We had a very good year, even with this loss. It was nice to play at home, but we had a bull’s-eye on our back. We knew we were going to get everyone’s best.”

Game Notes

– Feren said talking to the team following the game was difficult.

“I told the seniors that they couldn’t have asked for four better years,” he said. “They lost two games in four years in the league and made it to regionals two times. We’re all disappointed because it hurts to lose, but I told them to be proud of their accomplishments. I know with this group, that they’re going to be successful in life.”

-Players and fans withstood less than ideal weather conditions. Temperature throughout the two and a half hour game remained in the low 40s with no sunshine.

– Ursuline now advances to play in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday against the winner of today’s Jefferson district final between top-seeded LaBrae and two-time defending state champion Warren Champion.

The Irish have won all three of their playoff games this year by one run. Ursuline beat Liberty, 1-0, in the opening round before rallying past Newton Falls on Thursday, 7-6.