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TALLMADGE -- With so many first-year varsity starters on the roster, there was a lot of questions about how the Tallmadge softball team could handle adversity.
With the postseason just around the corner, the answer has become rather clear.
The host Lady Blue Devils scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a hard-fought 5-4 victory over Suburban League American Conference rival Aurora May 8.
Unfortunately, Tallmadge had to share the American Conference title after falling to Highland 2-1 in nine innings May 9 in Granger Township.
Both the Lady Blue Devils and Lady Hornets finished 10-2 in the conference.
Tallmadge certainly had to sweat to hold off a very pesky Lady Greenmen squad.
Aurora took a 2-0 lead and then scored a run apiece in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, to take a 4-3 advantage.
But Tallmadge, which has had its share of comebacks in 2017, got the clutch hits it needed to increase its winning streak to 11 games.
"They are building the attitude of we're not going to get beat," Lady Blue Devils head coach Ed Seeker said. "We have nine or 10 kids who are getting varsity experience for the first time. They have accepted the challenge."
Catcher Jordyn Severns got things started in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff walk. She moved to second base on a wild pitch.
After Aurora right-hander Kelci Fleming got the next batter to fly out, left fielder Gia Spitali reached on a throwing error, which allowed Severns to score and Spitali to move to second.
Fleming got the next batter to ground out to third, but right-handed pitcher Emily Pratt, who was hitless in her previous three at bats, ended the game with a hard chopper past second base to drive in the winning run.
"We've talked about being a team first and not a team of individuals," Seeker said. "I think it was hard for them at first, but they've accepted that."
Pratt, who improved to 10-2 in the pitcher's circle, pitched all seven innings. She finished with five strikeouts and despite having a handful of full counts early in the game, did not walk a batter.
Fleming took the loss despite pitching all seven innings.
The Lady Greenmen struck first in the top of the third.
Second baseman Hailey Bodine and Fleming got things started with back-to-back one-out singles.
The next batter, shortstop Tyler Cassidy, hit a shallow fly ball to center that looked like it was going to drop.
But Lady Blue Devils' center fielder Autumn Malicoat sprinted full speed to make the catch at her ankles.
Tallmadge nearly got Bodine at the plate, but she just beat the throw and the run counted despite protests from the Lady Blue Devils' coaching staff that she left third base too early.
Fleming eventually scored the second run on a wild pitch.
Tallmadge came right back in the bottom of the third.
Designated player Madison Rearick led off the inning with a bunt single, but it looked like Fleming was going to escape any damage when she struck out the next two batters.
However, Spitali drew a walk and right fielder Alyssa Garbinsky following with a two-run single to center to tie the game.
Garbinsky wasn't done.
She added another two-out, run-scoring single to score first baseman Olivia Carey, who reached base on a double toward deep left, to give the Lady Blue Devils a 3-2 lead.
Unfortunately for Tallmadge, it's lead didn't stay safe for long.
Like the Lady Blue Devils, Aurora did its damage with two outs in the sixth and seventh.
Catcher Aleese Angelo drove in the tying run in the sixth with a hard-hit chopper past third base for a single. The hit scored third baseman Julia Mazanec, who reached on an infield error.
In the seventh, first baseman Maddy Bizjak led off the inning with a single to center. She was replaced by pinch runner Dylynn Lasky, who scored on Fleming's two-out bloop single to left.
Fleming finished with five strikeouts and three walks. She also hit a batter.
Shortstop Olivia Ayres had two singles for Tallmadge. All nine Lady Blue Devils in the batting order reached base.
Tallmadge stranded eight runners and was just 4 for 20 with runners on base. The Lady Blue Devils finished with nine hits and two errors.
The Lady Greenmen had six hits and one error.
Tallmadge honored Carey, Rearick, Ayres and Garbinsky on senior day.
"Their leadership is what we needed," Seeker said of the seniors. "They've helped the others because they've been through it. I'm happy for the senior class."
Left-hander Hallie Mullett (7-3) took the loss against Highland. She pitched 8-2/3 innings and finished with seven strikeouts and two walks.
The Lady Blue Devils had nine hits and one error. The Lady Hornets had five hits and two errors.
Severns had two doubles and Spitali had two singles for Tallmadge.
Gabbi Gray had a single and an RBI and Olivia Carey had a single and a run scored for the Lady Blue Devils.
Tallmadge was scheduled to host Canal Fulton Northwest in a Canton Division II sectional title game May 11. Results were not available at press time.
The district semifinal and title games are set to take place May 17 and 18 at Willig Park. Both contests are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.