EASTLAKE—An unlikely hero emerged in North’s doubleheader sweep of Lake Catholic and Perry on Saturday.
After the Rangers defeated the Cougars in the opener, 12-6, Perry went on to defeat Lake Catholic in the second game, 3-0. The previously undefeated Pirates then held a 3-2 lead over the Rangers after four when sophomore Kirsten Luksic relieved North starting pitcher Alyssa Robinson.
Luksic, whose appearance was the first in her varsity career, allowed just one hit, walked three and struck out two in picking up the win.
“We find ourselves sometimes in that spot and we cower down to it, but they really stepped up today against a good team in Perry,” said North coach Andrew Palermo. “I was proud of the effort of the sophomore that came in and closed it out.”
With several key league games on the docket for next week, Palermo went into the doubleheader knowing he’d have to use Luksic.
He just didn’t expect her appearance to come at such a critical time.
“That’s what happens,” he said. “You get an opportunity and you see what they’re made of when the situation comes and it’s crunch time.”
Luksic pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth but relaxed a bit when her team scored three in the bottom half of the inning to give her a 5-3 lead.
“A lot (of nerves) going in but they eased off once I found my place,” Luksic said. “(The lead) was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”
A single and a walk put the tying runs on base for the Pirates in the seventh but Luksic fanned the final two batters she faced to seal North’s win.
For her efforts, Luksic earned a game ball.
“It’s really special to me,” she said. “This is what I worked towards.”
Junior catcher Mikaela Fording never doubted her sophomore teammate could get the job done.
“I was confident in her,” said Fording, who had an RBI single in the win. “I really needed her to do her job and she did. I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait for her to play with us more. I think it’s really important that we know other people can do it. We need other people besides A-Rob and Lexie (Genter). They’re arms get tired so we need her. She can do it.”
Robinson reached on an error in the bottom of the first and scored on Fording’s single to give the Rangers an early 1-0 lead. Val Arnold led off the bottom of the second with a single and scored on Ely Miller’s base hit to push the lead to 2-0.
Perry scored a run in the third and two in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead but the Rangers benefitted from a few Pirate errors in the fifth to retake the lead for good.
“That’s what we stress,” Palermo said. “It’s high school sports. They’ve still got to field it, throw it and catch it, so as long as you put it in play there’s a chance.”
Alyssa Moses’ single started North’s fifth inning rally.
“A lot of people stepped up today,” Palermo said. “Alyssa Moses got that inning going and it just kind of sparked us. That was a good team effort.”
Kristen Peace was 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and three RBI in the win over the Cougars.
“Getting those hits the first game was more of a confidence boost for me,” Peace said. “I’ve been struggling the past few games at the plate and I knew I had to go up there with confidence and just go with the flow and do what I do best, which is hit. I’m so happy with myself for contributing to the team wins in both games.”
Fording, Robinson and Dana Turchon each had two hits in the win over Lake Catholic. Fording, Turchon and Hannah Harris all clubbed doubles in the game.
Genter picked up the win in the circle as she allowed three earned runs on six hits and struck out three.
Click here to read the rest of this game story, which includes a photo gallery and video interviews with Kirsten Luksic and Mikaela Fording.