Falls upends LaBrae

LEAVITTSBURG — The Division III LaBrae District softball tournament features local schools as the top three seeds. The host Vikings, seeded second, faced off with No. 3 seed Newton Falls on Tuesday afternoon with a trip to the district title game on the line.

LaBrae, the 2013 and 2014 district champ, looked for a third title this decade. However, the Tigers had other ideas and advanced with a 6-3 district victory.

Newton Falls (17-8) scored first when Sophie Tvaroch knocked home Zoe Macelrath with an RBI double. They bat third and clean up, and the pair are two of four freshmen in the lineup. The Tigers led 1-0 after one.

The Vikings (18-7) took the lead in the bottom of the second. Natalie Sisler and starting pitcher Arianna Geordan crossed the plate to give LaBrae a 2-1 advantage.

The lead was short lived as Newton Falls put two runs on the board in the top of the third. Tvaroch smashed her second RBI double of the game, scoring senior Tara Backherms on the play. Senior Josie Madison drove in Tvaroch and the Tigers were up, 3-2.

Backherms bats leadoff and pitches. She has given up three runs or less in four straight starts and went the distance for Newton Falls.

“The last few games haven’t been the best for us,” Backherms said. “Throughout the season we started to build some team chemistry. This game we really clicked. We all came together and it showed out on the field today. This is the first time we’ve made it to the district championship game since my freshman year.”

The Tigers added a run in the fourth and two more in the sixth on a prodigious shot over the center field fence by freshman shortstop Emily Knight. Knight’s two-run blast was her fifth home run of the season. She grew up hitting homers in little league and has continued at the varsity level.

“I didn’t think it was gone when I hit it,” Knight said. “I’ve hit some home runs in my career. That one really put us over the top. I knew I had to do something because the game was close. We knew we had to come into this one hitting.”

This was the third meeting of the year between the schools with each team splitting the first two. Top-seeded Champion plays today at 5 p.m. against Conneaut in the other district semifinal. The defending state champion Golden Flashes are the likely next opponent for Newton Falls in the title game on Thursday.

“We wanted it bad,” Newton Falls coach Bill Pelyak said. “We beat LaBrae once in the regular season. We thought they didn’t give us much credit for beating them. We used that as fuel. We’ve actually been using that over and over again as motivation. We finally got to this point, and I think that it came through in the way we played today.”