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Clippers pull even in EOAC softball race

COLUMBIANA — Revenge was indeed sweet for the Columbiana Clippers softball team.

A night after seeing a late lead disappear in a loss to fellow Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference power Lisbon, it was Columbiana’s turn for some late-inning fireworks in the rematch Tuesday at Firestone Park, as the Clippers rolled to a 9-4 win over the rival Blue Devils.

“We told them the energy from beginning to end had to stay up and we couldn’t let up whatsoever,” said Columbiana coach Madison Kurtz. “I’m so proud of our girls, I mean they did not give up.”

“They have a lot of talent, they have two solid pitchers and they’ve got hitters,” said Lisbon coach Dave Crismon. “They showed that, they didn’t quit, just like we didn’t quit last night (in Lisbon’s 7-6 comeback win over Columbiana on Monday).”

When the dust settled after their two meetings by the Clippers and Blue Devils this week, they remain tied atop the EOAC with 7-1 league marks.

Columbiana banged out 13 hits in the rematch, led by freshman Mackenzi Gamble, who had a perfect night at the plate with a key two-run home run, a double, single and a walk.

“I loved it (hitting the home run), it was the best feeling in the world,” said Gamble, who has six home runs on the season. “This is the best win (of the season), 100 percent.”

To top off her great night, Gamble, a freshman right-hander, was the winning pitcher while working all seven innings. She struck out seven Blue Devil batters and walked two.

“She really did a great job,” said Kurtz. “She was hitting the locations and she was coming in the dugout and we were discussing (how to pitch to) certain batters and she was on her A Game tonight. She was locked in.”

“I throw, counting all of my changeups, around 10 or 11 (pitches),” said Gamble. “I’m very proud of my team and how far we’ve come.”

The Clippers had many offensive stars on the day as Julia Rapp had a triple and a single, Cessna Stoy had a double and two singles and Madeline Hitchcock had two singles.

Leading Lisbon, which had eight hits, was Mya Emmerling with a double and a single, Anna Marshalek with two singles and Justyce Vrable with a double.

The game was scoreless through the first two innings. But in the bottom of the third, the visiting Blue Devils put three runs on the board. Vrable opened the inning with a double to left and scored on an RBI single by Kaity Clark. Mya Emmerling stepped to the plate and ripped an RBI double to center, making it 2-0. Emmerling made it 3-0 when she scampered home on a wild pitch.

The Blue Devils tacked on another run in the top of the fifth when Clark walked, moved up on a sacrifice and eventually scored on a wild pitch, making it 4-0.

But in the bottom of the fifth, the Clippers exploded for five runs on six hits to take a 5-4 advantage.

The big rally began when Maci Linhart and Rapp had bunt singles and Tori Long had an RBI fly out to right as Linhart scored, making it 4-1. Then Gamble stepped to the plate and sent a Lisbon pitch towering over the right field fence for a two-run home run, slicing the Lisbon lead to 4-3.

“After that (home run),” she was pumped,” said Kurtz. “She was ready to go the rest of the game.”

The Clippers’ Alaina Johnston and Ava Davanzo followed with back-to-back singles. Hitchcock tied the game with a sacrifice fly to center and the Clippers took the lead for good when Stoy hit an RBI double to right, giving the hosts a confidence-building 5-4 advantage.

“Just super proud of her (Stoy),” said Kurtz. “I’m just so happy for a senior.”

“They (the Clippers) put some good at-bats together in the fifth inning,” said Crismon. “A few of those outs we would like to have back to stop some of the bleeding but give them credit, those were all legit hits.”

The Clippers then iced the game in the bottom of the sixth when they scored four more runs to take a commanding 9-4 lead. Linhart walked to open the bottom half of the inning and scored when Rapp ripped a triple to right. Moments later, Gamble doubled to right, scoring Rapp as the Clippers went up 7-4. Johnston reached base on an error and Gamble scored to make it 8-4. The Clippers then added the final run of the game when Hitchcock singled to right and Johnston raced home.

With the big win in hand, Gamble closed out the win in the top of the seventh while striking out the final Lisbon batter.

Kurtz agreed seeing two talented teams like Columbiana and Lisbon play makes both programs better.

“That was a fun game to watch,” said Kurtz. “These are the kind of games I would rather play any day of the week because it’s great competition.”

Columbiana is now 11-2 overall and will travel to Austintown Fitch Thursday.

Lisbon is 9-4 overall and, weather permitting, is scheduled to play Mineral Ridge today.

L: 0-0-3-0-1-0-0–4- 8-2

C: 0-0-0-0-5-4-x–9-13-2

C–Mackenzi Gamble wp (7IP, 8H, 7K, 2BB) and Audrey Smith.

L–Mya Emmerling lp (7IP, 13H, 2K, 3BB) and Kaity Clark.

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