December 19, 2014

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Sectional Softball: North Ridgeville pitcher uses season-best outing to blank Lorain

North Ridgeville’s Nicole Andrews delivers against Lorain on Friday during the Rangers’ 13-0 victory in a Division I sectional tournament opener. Andrews gave up just one hit while striking out 12 Titans. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

North Ridgeville’s Nicole Andrews delivers against Lorain on Friday during the Rangers’ 13-0 victory in a Division I sectional tournament opener. Andrews gave up just one hit while striking out 12 Titans. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Nicole Andrews picked the perfect day to have her best pitching performance of the season.

Andrews came within three outs of pitching a five-inning perfect game, but settled for a one-hitter in North Ridgeville’s 13-0 mercy-rule win over Lorain in a Division I sectional opener Friday.

Andrews befuddled Lorain’s hitters, striking out the game’s first seven batters before Miranda Addis grounded out to second base. Andrews then struck out three in a row before Hayley McCall popped out to the catcher.

“A lot of things were working, mostly keeping my pitches low,” Andrew said. “I love my change-up. Our offense kept us going and gave me confidence. This is probably one of my best games.

“We’re pretty confident. We’re getting hot at the right time.”

Andrews entered the fifth inning perfect, but Mackenzi Stoyka spoiled the run with a single to right-center field.

“Nicole is really catching her groove at the right time,” North Ridgeville coach Mike Mease said. “She was so close to a perfect game. What a way to start the tournament season. Everything was just about working today. She didn’t miss too many pitches.”

After Stoyka stole second base, she was thrown out trying to steal third. Andrews then struck out the next two batters to end the game.

“It was not the outcome we wanted at all,” said Lorain coach Pam Jackson, whose team fell to 4-15. “We haven’t seen anyone that fast and that quick with the different pitches pretty much all year. We don’t have anyone in our league that can pitch that way.”

North Ridgeville (12-11) wasted no time getting its offense going. Addie Mease and Sam Graham had an RBI single each, and Katelyne Graham drove in another when she reached on an error to make it 3-0 after the first inning.

Ashley Helmick and Sam Graham added an RBI single each in the second inning to up the lead to 5-0.

“Lately I’ve been hitting well so I just wanted to carry it into today, this was a big game for us,” said Helmick, who went

3-for-4 with a triple, three runs scored and two RBIs. “In the beginning of the season I started slow, but now I’m starting to get hot.”

The Rangers broke the game open in the fourth inning with an eight-run outburst. Andrews helped her cause with a two-run double, while Katelyne Graham and Helmink both had RBI squeeze bunts that went for infield singles.

Megan Hokanson and Marissa Caraballo added RBI singles and Kayla Whitlock hit a sacrifice fly. The Rangers finished with 16 hits, including seven of nine batters having two hits or more.

“With our offense, we were doing basically what we wanted to do,” Mease said. “Everything we were calling, we were executing. I’m proud of the girls for the way that they played.”

The Rangers advance to the sectional final at Westlake today at 9 a.m. The teams scheduled an early game because both schools have prom tonight.

Contact Steve Walker at 329-7135 or djstevo34@hotmail.com.

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