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Rootstown scrapes by Falls in 4-3 battle

Staff photo/Brian Yauger. Newton Falls' Dani Drake slides into third base Tuesday afternoon against Rootstown.

LEAVITTSBURG — Rootstown ripped a triple on the first pitch and the pieces continued falling from there, as Newton Falls fell in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in the Division III Leavittsburg District semifinals on Tuesday.

“We got to the end there,” Tigers coach Kristina Baker said. “We started off a little shaky but we didn’t back down and we did what we needed to do (to get back in it).”

Newton Falls surrendered all four of its runs in the first two innings, and defensively took over from there.

After that initial rush, the Tigers kept Rootstown at bay, keeping the Rovers from making any real progress on the bases. The only problem is, the Newton Falls bats were having the same issue.

In the bottom of the third inning, Newton Falls had runners on second and third, but were unable to knock a runner across, keeping the game at a 4-0 Rover lead.

Things started heating up in the bottom of the fourth however, with Jo’el Hood scoring off a sacrifice bunt, then Emily Knight took home on a passed ball to cut the Rootstown lead to 4-2.

That score held until the bottom of the seventh where the Tigers made a last ditch effort to get the victory.

Dani Drake scored on a Olivia Valotto bunt to cut the lead to 4-3, and the Tigers were in position to tie the game, but in the end couldn’t get that last runner across.

Newton Falls’ season ends at 15-5. Like most teams, the biggest opponent for the Tigers this year was the weather. When they did play however, things went well.

“It seemed like we started off playing one day a week after getting rained out,” Baker said. “I told the girls though that they need to be ready to play every day you come in. It was fast and furious here at the end, so for us to stay mentally into the game and to end the season, I think we did well.

“We played some good games at the end. We played well against Crestview, in the tournament we played well. It was really nice to be playing softball again.”

The Tigers graduate seven seniors, including Hood, starting pitcher Sophia Tvaroch, Lexie Drake, Emily Knight and Valot. They’ve overcome quite a bit, including a sophomore season that never was.

The class of 2022 was crucial in Tuesday’s pushback against the Rovers, knowing the game was going to fall on them and their abilities.

“What a great career they’ve had,” Baker said. “A lot of them were three-year starters. It’s hard to say goodbye, and this is the end totally for them. It’s the end of their school year and the end of their softball careers. It’s rough and it’s sad to see a big senior class go.

“They were the ones girls looked to. They were our leaders in the field, in the dugout. It came down to our athletes and who was going to make plays and step up when we needed to and everybody looked to them. They knew that coming in. They knew they were going to have to step up and make plays and I believe they did that.”

Rootstown will face Ursuline in the district finals on Thursday at LaBrae High School. Ursuline took down Kirtland 12-2 in their matchup to advance.

First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the regional at Ravenna next week.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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