GREENFORD - Though South Range freshman Codi Taylor drove in the game-winning run in the Raiders' 2-1 ninth inning-victory over Newton Falls in a Division III district semifinal at South Range High School on Monday, it was a defensive play that both coaches said was the play of the game.
"The key was that diving catch that the center fielder made," Newton Falls coach Bill Pelyak said. "That saved the game for them. I think we would have got a run in the inning if she wouldn't have caught that. That catch was the difference for sure."
The center fielder that Pelyak referred to is Jordan Youngs.
With the game tied at one in the top of the ninth and one out, Newton Falls' Kate Wainwright got her second hit of the night - only the fourth allowed by South Range pitcher Caragyn Yanek.
Then came up Jenna Ballas, who drilled a shot to right-center field that looked like it was going to drop in. However, Youngs made the play of her career by diving and coming up with the ball as she still slid across the grass, taking the hit away from Ballas - and the rally out of the Tigers.
"I'll talk about that catch at the banquet, we'll talk about it years from now, that's an amazing catch," South Range coach Don Feren said.
Then there was Taylor's hit, which gave the Raiders' the win and the right to face Ursuline today in a district final rematch of last year.
Jessica Skirpak got the inning started with a walk, then was sacrificed to second by Yanek. Two batters and one out later came up Taylor, who got the ball to the outfield, allowing Skirpak to score from second.
Though they might not have made the plays of the day, both pitchers were as evenly matched as they come. Yanek allowed five hits, while striking out seven and walking one. Ballas also gave up five hits, struck out six and walked two.
Besides the ninth-inning, the only other miscue Ballas allowed was a first-inning home run to Stevie Taylor. Considering South Range is one of the better offensive teams in the area - led by Stevie Taylor's 15 home runs - Pelyak was pleased with how his pitcher threw on Monday.
"(She was) unbelievable. She was on target," Pelyak said. "She's a sophomore, she'll be back for two more years. And I think she has turned in to one of the better pitchers in the area this year."
Newton Falls has three games left to make up but finish postseason play with a 15-7 record.
South Range (23-5) now advances to its second straight district final, and will play Youngstown Ursuline for the second year in a row. Last year, the Irish won 2-1.
"They are a good team. If you look at the brackets, you have the top four teams are here (in districts). When you have the top four here, there are no easy ones," Feren said.
SR-Caragyn Yanek, wp (7K, 1BB).
NF-Jenna Ballas, lp (6K, 2BB).