Hilltoppers Win Walk-Off  Before Season End
May 23, 2024 by Rich Kelly

It’s district softball tournament time. The teams left in the competition are all high quality teams.

It’s district softball tournament time. The teams left in the competition are all high quality teams. To keep moving on, you must make plays, forget mistakes in a hurry, and that’s exactly what the Chardon softball team did in a 6-5 walk-off win against Canton Glen Oak at Covelli Sports Complex on the Youngstown State University campus on May 13.

The win came via a walkoff double from the bat of Alexa Anderson, but it was a total team effort from top to bottom in the process.

After Chardon (20-8) was unable to capitalize on a first and third situation in the bottom of the first inning.

The Golden Eagles played small ball in the top of the second by blasting out five hits, two of which actually made it out of the infield.

The others were all infield choppers as Glen Oak could not put good whacks on the pitches of Jenna Hendriks. Nonetheless, they did run fast to first base a lot to reach safely, and on one of the two hits that did reach outfield grass, the Hilltoppers were slow to react on the speed on the bases.

It took a while, but came in the bottom of the fifth inning. Sierra Taylor led off with a cannon shot off the fence in left center for a double.

To that point, the Toppers had been putting the ball into play more often, but the defenses for the Canton team made some plays.

Much of that changed after Taylor’s hit, as Emma Anderson, Grace Legan, Riley Ford, and McKenna Banville all hit safely and with power, leading to a four run inning that tied the score at 4-4.

Chardon coach Stewart Landies laid it all out in his commentary.

“There’s no doubt we needed a spark, and Sierra’s long double leading off the fifth inning gave it to us,” Landies said. “That hit to the fence really got us going again.”

Both teams manufactured runs in the sixth frame to keep the game tied.

In one of the few times Glen Oak got good aluminum on the ball, it took a superb defensive play from Chardon to halt the rally in its tracks.

Finally up stepped Alexa Anderson, and she promptly sent a 0-1 pitch screaming into the gap in right center that the center fielder dived for and came up short.

While chasing the ball, Banville impersonated a greyhound on the basepaths to easily score the game winning run, sending Chardon to a May 15 district final contest with Fitch.

“This is a really nice place to play,” Alexa Anderson said . “It’s a big time stage, but we care enough about each other to want to win every game we play no matter where we are playing. This was really nice to get the game winning hit for me, but we focus on playing for each other all the time., without putting too much thought into individual stuff.”

Legan, Ford, and Banville each had a pair of safeties for the Hilltoppers as they overcame gthree errors In the field overall while taking advantage of four miscues from the Golden Eagles. The Hilltoppers were stronger at the end, and that is usually when big games are won.

No Comeback Against Fitch

The Chardon Hilltoppers reached the Div. I district final contest against Austintown Fitch.

In the district title game, the Hilltoppers again fell behind early, but due to one major circumstance, junior pitcher Sydnie Watts of Fitch, there would be no comeback allowed as Chardon saw its super season of softball come to a screeching halt on the short end of an 8-0 score.

Keep in mind, as well, that this gives Fitch a 3-peat of district titles in Division I.

Led by Georgia Tech University recruit junior pitcher Sydnie Watts, Fitch was just too much.

In fanning 16 while allowing only two baserunners, the Hilltoppers (20-9) had few good swings against a variety of on target pitches.

Mackenzie Kilbeck drilled a solid shot into right center in the second for the only Topper hit, and Kilbeck also was the only other baserunner for CHS when she walked , the only one of the night, in the fifth.

Watts fanned the side three times in the game with a ball that moved in and out and up and down enough , beside high rates of speed, that kept the Hilltoppers off balance.

Senior Grace Legan knew what to expect, as did her teammates, but skills like those of Watts make a big difference.

“We’ve seen some great pitchers over the course of this season,” Legan said. “At the same time, to make it this far is a great thing to be proud of. I want to leave behind a legacy of hard work and excellence, and even though we graduated six starters from last year, this group of girls has so much to be proud of and to build on for their own careers.”

Coach Stewart Landies, finishing his sixth season leading the program, while disappointed, was a terrific example of being upbeat in a tough spot for his team.

“I’m just so proud of this team,” he said between moments of consoling parents and players alike. “They just put it all togegther to get here with many younger girls now in the starting roles. We work hard in the off season. I ask a lot of parents to be part of it with offseason work, and that is the legacy these girls have built for themselves and for the program. I’ve had Grace, for example, for four years leading this team, and she has worked so hard and been such a great leader for everybody, a coach can’t ask for more than that.”

Dropping a game to the defending state title winner is no shame, and not for an instant did this CHS team give up. They just couldn’t give a repeat performance against one of the best pitchers they will ever see at any level.

They gave the community and school system a great deal to be proud of.