Late blast lifts Tigers past LaBrae
NEWTON FALLS — With two outs and down a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Tigers needed a hero if they wanted to take down LaBrae.
Stepping up to the plate for Newton Falls was freshman Emily Knight. On the first pitch, Knight hit a three-run home run to give the Tigers a 10-8 comeback victory over the rival Vikings (13-3, 7-1 All-American Blue Tier).
“It was really a good team win,” Knight said. “Both teams battled it out. Obviously that was a very good pitcher and I knew I had to do something to get this team a win. I think we really needed it.”
Knight was one of three players to hit home runs for the Tigers (10-5, 6-3). Sophomore Olivia Koehrsen and freshman pitcher Sophie Tvaroch each hit solo homers.
Newton Falls coach Bill Pelyak has a young team with five freshmen starting. The way the team battled was something he emphasized.
“They’re one of the top three teams that we’ve played all year,” Pelyak said. “So we knew what we were in for. I’m happy. I’m starting five freshmen. So the way they battled today and my seniors all the way down to the kids on the bench was fantastic.”
This was LaBrae’s first game back in Ohio after spending time in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, taking on teams from out of state.
“We were in Tennessee all weekend and we did not play energized,” Vikings coach Demetra Noble said. “We didn’t come to do our jobs in some areas. So it is what it is.”
Like many young teams Newton Falls has taken some lumps over the season. This win showcases a resiliency Pelyak hadn’t seen at the beginning of the year.
“My pitcher’s a freshman, she battled through some tough times in that game,” Pelyak said. “Some plays that we thought we should have made that we did in the beginning of the year. We weren’t fighting through those.
“Now we’re learning and we’re getting better and we’re swinging the bat, which really helps a lot.”
In addition to her home run, Tvaroch pitched a complete game for the Tigers, recording three strikeouts.
Confidence is key for all teams, but plays a special part in success for a young team. Beating LaBrae may give the Tigers some confidence, but they don’t plan on getting complacent.
“I think it made us a lot more confident,” Knight said. “But obviously we still have to play every game and we can’t let down at all. We have to keep going.”
This is a game that’s been circled on the Tigers’ calendar according to Pelyak.
“We focused on this game for, to be honest with you, since last Thursday,” Pelyak said. “We wanted this game bad. We knew that this game could set the tone for our season and we’re hoping it does. Now we’ve got to follow it up.”
Next up for the Tigers is against Boardman tonight with a rematch against LaBrae scheduled for Thursday. The key for the Vikings if they want to bounce back, according to Noble, is to not come out flat.
“They’ve got to decide if they want it or not,” Noble said. “They were flat tonight. So we’ve got to work on some different options and what we’ve got to do with some of these batters to slow it down with the hitting. That was a total hit fest on both sides. So we’ve got to figure something different out to do.”