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Irish keep fighting: Opalick blasts 2 HRs, Ogden Ks 14 as Urusline sinks Grand Valley 11-1

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Ursuline’s Mia Opalick points after rounding second base on her game-ending home run against Grand Valley Thursday. It was her second home run of the game and gave Ursuline a 11-1 victory, allowing the Fighting Irish to advance to the district semifinals.

CANFIELD — Ursuline is muscling its way back in hopes of winning another district championship.

On Thursday, the Fighting Irish took down the latest team in their path, Grand Valley. They started slow, but piled on the runs late, including scoring five runs in the fifth inning, to knock out the Mustangs 11-1 in six innings.

Mia Opalick blasted two home runs, one in the third inning and the second was to end the game.

Between Opalick’s two dingers and Paige Ogden’s 14-strikeout performance in the circle, it was a great day for the green and gold.

“I’m happy with the way the girls came out mentality-wise,” Irish coach Kristina Dugan said. “We were ready to play as a team. They didn’t want to hold anything back. I think that pressure too, got to us a little bit now that every game means something, but at the same time, I liked the way that they stuck on the field today.”

Grand Valley got on the board first however. After sophomore Abbey Eland was walked in the top of the first, she stole second, third and home to score the Mustangs’ only run of the afternoon.

From that point on, it was all Ursuline.

As soon as the field flipped, the Irish took over. In the bottom of the first, they took a 2-1 lead after Grace Sylvester sent two runners home. Ursuline kept finding holes in the outfield, tacking on run after run.

Ogden did her part in the circle as well and the senior has been a huge factor for the team this year, whether it’s in the field or as a leader.

“She’s just rock solid,” Dugan said. “I feel like the girls turn and look to her because she leads by example. That’s in the circle, that’s playing third, that’s at the plate. I think that she is just a huge role model to most of our team, especially the younger ones.”

On the other side, Grand Valley has been building itself from the ground up. Entering the year, they had a simple goal. Win a postseason game.

They did exactly that, taking down LaBrae 7-5 on Tuesday. While obviously not happy they lost on Thursday, the Mustang girls walked off the field with smiles on their faces. In the words of coach Dave Rowland, it was a year of learning.

“They haven’t won a tournament game in I don’t know how long,” Rowland said. “They haven’t won a conference game in a while. We finished pretty good in the conference around the middle of the pack, which is good. Our biggest thing is for us to learn and get better every game. Have fun with it too. It’s already a stressful game and a long season. You’ve got to have fun.”

Grand Valley finished with a 9-6 record.

Ursuline advances to the district semifinals on Tuesday where they’ll take on Kirtland at LaBrae High School. Start time is set for 5:30, following the first game of the afternoon between Rootstown and Newton Falls.

A big thing for Ursuline is to not look past anyone. They might be the top seed in the district facing a 14th seed, but that’s not how they’re going to prepare.

The defeat to South Range in the regional final last year lit a spark under the returning players and they want another shot at the Raiders. But that’s not the next game on the schedule. They have to earn their way back to that point.

Their key is just keeping the intensity up.

“It’s one game at a time,” Dugan said. “I think not coming out flat, coming out with intensity and playing like we know how, I think is a big deal.”

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